The most famous attraction on MIYAJIMA (宮島), officially known as Itsukushima, is the venerable shrine of Itsukushima-jinja, where the vermilion gate rising grandly out of the sea is considered to be one of Japan’s most beautiful views. The iconic Ō-torii, seemingly floating atop the water, is visible from the shore, while the peaceful Daishō-in keeps a watchful eye from its perch on the hill above.
The shrine and temples clustered around Miyajima’s only village at the northern tip of this long, mountainous island can comfortably be seen in a half-day trip from Hiroshima. If you have more time, there are plenty of other attractions, including beaches to laze on and hikes over Mount Misen, whose summit provides panoramic views across the Inland Sea. Consider splashing out on a night’s accommodation at one of the island’s classy ryokan so that you can enjoy the after-hours atmosphere with only tame deer and a few other guests for company. Autumn is a particularly beautiful time to visit, when the myriad maple trees turn a glorious red and gold, perfectly complementing Itsukushima-jinja.
As well as the regular festivals, such as New Year, there are special festivals held most months on Miyajima at both the Itsukushima-jinja shrine and the main temple Daishō-in. From time to time, bugaku (traditional court dancing) is also performed on the shrine’s nō stage; check with the main tourist information offices in Hiroshima for details.
Kaki Matsuri (second Sat in Feb): Free oysters, an island speciality, are served to sightseers.
Spring and Autumn festivals (April 15 & Nov 15): at Daishō-in, including firewalking displays by the resident monks.
Jin-Nō (April 16–18): Sacred nō plays, first performed for the daimyō Mōri Motonari in 1568, are re-enacted on the shrine’s stage as part of the spring peach-blossom festival.
Kangensai (June 16): Itsukushima-jinja’s main annual festival includes an atmospheric night-boat parade, accompanied by traditional music.
Hanabi Matsuri (Aug 14): The largest fireworks display in western Japan explodes in front of Itsukushima-jinja.
Chinkasai (Dec 31): Huge pine torches, blazing in front of Itsukushima-jinja, are fought over by groups of young men.