Backpacking in Japan is full of adventures and great places to visit. Miyajima is one of them and there are quite a few things to do on the island!
Because of its horrific history, a common destination on every backpacker when in Japan is the city of Hiroshima. From there, a good alternative when in the city is to take a one-day trip to the nearby island of Miyajima.
There are many things to do in Miyajima! this island is famous all over Japan as the Torii Gate of Itsukushima Shrine was first selected in 1643 as one of the three views of Japan.
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This small island is full of temples, some short hikes and glorious views! ahh! and it’s also full of deer which peacefully roam free next to all the tourists hoping to get some of whatever they’re eating!
I spent a full day at Miyajima and I found it as a great thing to do when in Hiroshima. It takes your attention a bit away from the sad stories of WWII and let you be in close contact with nature and traditional, even quirky, temples.
How to get to Miyajima Island
There are two main ways to get to the island from the centre of Hiroshima.
The most expensive one (by far!) is to take a boat already in the centre of the city, very close to the Atomic Bomb Dome, that will set you down 3600 Yen for a round trip.
The cheapest way, which is not inconvenient at all, is to take a Tram on the Miyajima Line, there are many stations around.
I took the Tram from Genbaku Dome Mae station which is very close to the Atomic Bomb Dome and near the Simple Stay Hostel where I was staying, the trip to Miyajima station takes roughly an hour.
The Tram trip will cost 280 Yen each way and then from the Miyajima Tram station you take a short ferry that lasts for about 5-10 minutes.
The round trip cost for the ferry is 360 Yen.
The total round trip from Hiroshima city centre is 920 Yen (that’s about US $25 cheaper than the boat from the city centre!)
Things to do in Miyajima Island
The so-called Island of Gods has a perfect size to walk it around in one day with everything not far away. There are plenty of restaurants and stalls for typical delicacies and ice creams although they’re priced a bit on the expensive side.
All of the following are some of the things to do in Miyajima on a single day:
Pet the deers!
Almost the very first thing you’ll notice upon arrival is the presence of lots of deers on the streets. There are an estimated a thousand deer on the island and they’re incredibly friendly.
The local tradition considered them sacred messengers from the gods and killing a deer could have cost your own life!
By now the deers are very used to be surrounded by tourists and you just need to be careful if you’re eating something as they will curiously follow you around trying to get a bite out of your hand.
I saw quite a few people being chased, but only on a very pacific way, not aggressively as for example some monkeys in SE Asia!
Visit Itsukushima Shrine
For sure the most famous spot on the entire Island of Miyajima is this Shinto Shrine which is estimated to have been built almost 1500 years ago.
This temple is now listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site and its “floating” Torii Gate is one of the three views of Japan.
This temple is considered a National Treasure and the most distinguishable feature it has is that during high tide is seems to be floating on the water. When the tide is low you can walk around the “beach”
The admission fee for the Itsukushima Shrine is 300 Yen.
Go Hiking and beware of the snakes!
The island of Miyajima contains the Seto Inland Sea National Park and there are more than 6 different trails to explore around the island.
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
Around the surrounding area of the Itsukushima Shrine you will find signs mentioning about the trails which start nearby the cable-car station.
The map below shows all the trails around the island.
I started on the Momiji Course and then took the Momijidani Course towards the highest point of the island.
At 535m of altitude, the hike to Mount Misen is not particularly strenuous, it takes just about 45 minutes to get to the top.
Make sure to bring plenty of water if you have a hot day as there are no facilities along the way until you come back down to the village again, there are toilets at the top though.
All over the hike you will see signs mentioning to be careful with venomous viper snakes. I saw two of them on the hike, one crossed my way just a meter away! luckily for me, they were minding their own business and didn’t even looked at me.
As with all touristy places in Japan, the trail is really well signalled. Every now and then there are signs mentioning the distance towards the top of the mountain (or back to the village).
The terrain is mainly rocky steps and can all be done with sneakers.
Although there’s a few people hiking, it doesn’t feel crowded at any point. Not even at the summit as it seems to me that the people that take the cable car were even too lazy to walk to the viewpoint! 🙂
On the way up (and down) you will find a few smaller temples. One of the most popular ones is Reikado Hall, aka Eternal Fire Hall which contains a holy fire that has been burning continually for 1200 years!
The fire from Reikado Hall was used to lit up the “Flame of Peace” at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Arriving to the summit feels like a nice surprise as the 360 views of the island are stunning. The landscape is a mix of forest with some rocky patches, I actually liked those rock formations a lot!
On the way down I took the Daishoin Course which passed next to a stream and some small waterfalls. I saw even less people on this trail.
Normally the end of a hike tends to be boring back-to-civilisation but this one took me to the next spot of the things to do in Miyajima!
Visit Daishoin Temple
Right at the foot of the mountain, at the end of the Daishoin Course almost hiding between the dense forest of Mount Misen is located the Daishoin Temple.
You can also reach it from the village if you’re not hiking all the way up to the top of Misen.
Daishoin Temple is not as famous as the Itsukushima Shrine, but I actually liked it much more! Founded in the year 806, Daishoin is the most important temple of Shingon Buddhism.
There’s no entry fee for the Daishoin Temple.
After visiting hundreds of temples among all my backpacking adventures around the world, by now I tend to skip many religious complexes as they simply tend to be “more of the same” which eventually gets pretty boring.
However, I found Daishoin Temple to be different on a kind of a quirky way, with exaggerated features on the statues and what caught my attention the most was a collection of 500 Rakan Statues that all represent a Buddhist monk who was directly instructed by the Buddha himself. Each statue is unique and wears a cute little knitted hat.
After wandering a little bit more around the village it was time to head back to Hiroshima.
Are you planning to visit the island of Miyajima?
If you’re backpacking in Japan I’d highly recommend to visit the island of Miyajima. Even that it’s quite touristy which is something I tend to avoid, I thoroughly enjoyed my day there.
The hiking trails were very pretty and combined with the traditional Japanese temples and Shrines it makes up for a fun day out and a bit of a break from all the WWII-fuelled information you absorb when visiting Hiroshima.
Have a look at my other posts about my backpacking adventures in Japan and feel free to drop a comment or questions if there’s anything in particular you’d like to know!