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I still remember the first time I visited Miyajima. After spending a night in Hiroshima, and learning about the impact of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima towards the end of WWII (psst: check out my 1 day in Hiroshima itinerary) we boarded a ferry to Miyajima Island.
I still remember the moment like it was yesterday – our ferry was making its way towards the island, and in the distance, we spotted Miyajima’s famous floating torii gate.
Little did I know, I’d spend my next few days falling in love with this small island.
To help others visiting, I’ve put together a Miyajima itinerary!
What this article will cover:
- Why you should visit Miyajima Island
- Things to know before you visit
- The Ultimate Miyajima Itinerary
- How to get to Miyajima Island
- Where to stay in Miyajima (broken down by budget)
Why you should visit Miyajima island
Fun fact: most visitors don’t realize that Miyajima’s official name is Itsukushima. It is more popularly known as “Miyajima’ which in Japanese means “shrine island.”
This small island is only a ferry trip away from Hiroshima and is a very popular day trip amongst foreigners and Japanese alike.
Miyajima is famous for its giant torii gate, which appears to be floating in the water. This makes Miyajima a super popular side trip from the city of Hiroshima.
Important Update: the famous torii gate on Miyajima Island is undergoing renovations, and is currently covered in scaffolding. The renovations began during June 2019 and are expected to take 1 year to complete (though no official announcement has been made on the expected completion date). If you visit Miyajima Island you currently cannot see the giant torii gate.
Things to know before you visit
- Peak tourist season: I visited during summer and found Miyajima to be super busy with crowds. As a popular tourist destination, it can also get busy during school holidays, golden week, summer holidays and cherry blossom season. Be prepared for crowds during the day: this is one busy tourist spot!
Psst: If you want to avoid the crowds, make sure you stay overnight, as once evening hits all the day-trippers leave the island and you get to enjoy a quieter, peaceful island. Alternatively, avoid weekends and public holidays where possible!
- If you want to stay on the island: if you’re a budget traveler, Miyajima can get expensive. There aren’t that many accommodation options (which is why a day trip might be tempting). Don’t let this put you off – I was a solo budget traveler, and managed to find budget-friendly accommodation when visiting!
- Booking accommodation: double-check your hotel’s location before booking! When I was researching, I came across a couple of hotels that had “Miyajima” in the name, but they weren’t located on the island (they were located near Miyajimaguchi Station, which is near where you board the ferry to get to Miyajima Island!)
Psst: later in this guide I share some recommendations on where to stay based on your budget. All our recommendations are located on Miyajima island, so you don’t have to worry about booking the wrong accommodation!
- Ferry times: make sure you look these up in advance in conjunction with high/low tide! This is especially important if you’re visiting Miyajima on a day trip and you’re keen on seeing the torii gate “float” at high tide AND if you want to walk up to the gate at low tide (which is a cool experience!)
This Miyajima itinerary shares the best things to do while on Miyajima. I’ve optimized this itinerary for day trippers and those spending 1 night on Miyajima.
Arrive on Miyajima Island:
If you’re staying overnight at Miyajima island, drop off your luggage at your hotel, or you can store it in one of the lockers near the tourist information desk in the Miyajima ferry terminal.
Psst: not sure how to use the storage lockers? Don’t worry – the lockers will have instructions in English and if you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask!
Make friends with deer:
As you walk from the ferry terminal towards Itsukushima Shrine, you’ll spot plenty of deer. If you’ve visited Nara, you’ll know that the deer are super friendly. If you haven’t had a chance to visit Nara, no fear – you’re in for a fun time!
Here the deer roam freely, and they are super friendly.
If you’re traveling with young children, just be careful (and don’t give small children food as the deer can get aggressive!) If you’re holding any paper or maps… Well, I hope you weren’t too attached to your paper because they’ll probably try to eat it 😉
Important Update: Itsukushima Shrine’s main attraction, the giant torii gate is currently undergoing renovations and is covered by scaffolding. You will be unable to see the torii gate if you visit. The shrine is currently still open and is still a beautiful shrine to visit.
This Shinto shrine and its torii gate are famous for being built over water. The Torii gate (which is hard to miss as you take the ferry across) appears to be floating at high tide. At low tide, you can walk out to the gate (which is a fun experience!)
The Itsukushima Shrine is also built over water, and this makes it one of Japan’s more uniquely situated shrines.
It can get really busy during the peak tourist season / during the day. Because of this, if you’re staying overnight, I suggest you visit Itsukushima Shrine the next morning first thing (they open as early as 6 am!)
If you’re here on a day trip, it’ll be constant crowds, unless you’re here during a quieter weekday.
How to get here: Itsukushima Shrine is only a 15-minute walk from the ferry terminal (it is also hard to miss, as it’s directly opposite the Itsukushima Shrine Floating Torii Gate!)
Visiting the Daishoin temple was one of my favorite experiences in Miyajima. Quieter and more peaceful than the more popular Itsukushima Shrine, this is the perfect place to escape the crowds.
Make sure when visiting you spin the metal cylinders as the climb the stairs up to the temple! These are inscribed with sutra or scriptures, and it’s said that spinning them is like reading them!
You can probably spend an entire afternoon here: from here you can hike up to Mount Misen, where there are some temple halls, and you get a breathtaking view out to the sea and Itsukushima Shrine Floating Torii Gate. The hike up to Mount Misen is a great addition to any Miyajima Itinerary, especially if you love the outdoors.
If you don’t or can’t walk, another alternative is to take the ropeway to the Miyajima Ropeway Station (see below!)
How to get here: Daishoin Temple is a 10-minute walk from the Itsukushima Shrine.
If you walked up to the summit of Mount Misen from Daishoin Temple (above), you could then walk to the Miyajima Ropeway Station. From here you can then choose to walk further, or you can take the ropeway back down!
If you didn’t walk from Daishoin Temple, you can take the ropeway instead!
The ropeway starts at Momijidani Station (which is a 10-minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine). You change ropeways at Kayadani Station and arrive at the Shishi-iwa Observatory.
This is the highest point you can get to via the ropeway. The views are spectacular from here, but if you want to reach the summit of Mout Misen, you can take the hiking path (which takes 30-min one way). To find out more about the Miyajima Ropeway, check out the official website here!
How to get here: the start of the ropeway (Momijidani Station) is a 10-minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine. Alternatively, there is a free shuttle bus available just a 6-minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine. This free shuttle is a great option if you can’t walk long distances or if you are traveling with young children.
Cost: 1,800 JPY return or 1,000 JPY one way (for children: 900 JPY return or 500 JPY one way).
Explore Omotesando Street
Omotesando Street is a little bit touristy but still fun! Here you can find lots of snacks, eateries and souvenir shops.
Make sure you try Momiji manjū which is a buckwheat and rice cake in the shape of a maple leaf. It is filled with red bean paste, and I would say it is more “cake-like” than pastry. If you’ve never eaten red bean before, it’s worth a try – I loved munching on Momiji manjū, and even brought a box home with me to Tokyo!
Miyajima is famous for Momiji manjū, and you can find it everywhere in Miyajima!
Hometime (or not!)
If you’re not spending the night on Miyajima, you’ll probably want to head back soon on the ferry!
Make sure you spend your last moments taking in the beauty of the Itsukushima Floating Torii Gate. If you have the time, it’s also worth staying for sunset, where the colors in the sky compliment the torii gate.
If you’re staying overnight:
Make sure to visit the Itsukushima Shrine the next morning! I visited this shrine twice when I was in Miyajima – once during the afternoon, and again at 7 am in the morning where it was SO much more peaceful and quieter. I know I enjoyed the early morning visit way more 😉
How to get to Miyajima
There are two ways to get to Miyajima Island:
(1) Train/tram + ferry:
This is the most popular (and budget-friendly) way to get to Miyajima Island
If you have a JR pass: take the JR Sanyo Line from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station.
Or, if you don’t have a JR pass: you can pay 410 JPY to take the above trip, or you can take the tram line number 2 from central Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi.
Once you arrive at Miyajimaguchi, the ferry terminal is only a short walk away (just follow the crowds!)
There are two main ferry companies – one which is run by JR (you can use your JR pass here, or pay 180 JPY one way) or Matsudai (also costs 180 JPY one way).
It only takes 10-minutes for the ferry to arrive on Miyajima.
Make sure you look up the ferry times in advance (links above!)
(2) Direct boats
If you want to skip the above transfers and aren’t on a budget, you can take a direct boat from Hiroshima Peace Park or Hiroshima Port. These options are much more costly (at last research it cost 3600 yen round trip from Hiroshima Peace Park or 1850 yen one way from Hiroshima Port).
Where to stay in Miyajima (broken down by budget/ travel style)
This section provides some suggestions on the best places to stay according to your travel style. Make sure you book in advance, especially if you’re on a budget!
When researching, make sure to check that the hotel you’re planning to stay at is located ON Miyajima island. I came across a couple of accommodations that were on the mainland 😉
But don’t worry – all the options I’ve listed below are definitely on Miyajima island!
If you’re a backpacker: Miyajima Guest House Mikuniya
This is where I stayed when I was visiting Miyajima Island. Accommodation can be expensive here, so this is one of the few budget-friendly options for solo travelers. The rooms are all Japanese style, with tatami flooring, futons, and sliding doors. You can get a bed (futon) in a mixed dormitory, or if you’re traveling as a group or family, you can get an entire room. The accommodation is spacious, clean and has anything you could want (including free breakfast and use of the kitchen!)
Location: located on Miyajima Island, a 15-minute walk away from the ferry terminal. Located on a residential street, this is a great place to stay if you want to escape from the crowds of Miyajima.
If you’re on a budget: Sakuraya Hotel
If you don’t mind trying a more traditional Japanese style accommodation, this is a great budget-friendly option! All the rooms have tatami flooring and futons. Since this is a ryokan, you’ll get to experience a public bath while you’re here! Some of the rooms even have ocean views (seriously worth it if you don’t mind paying a bit extra!)
Location: Sakuraya Hotel is located on Miyajima Island, only a 7-minute walk from the ferry terminal. It faces the ocean and is only a 15-minute walk to Itsukushima Shrine.
If you have a mid-range budget: Hotel Miyajima Villa
If you want to treat yourself without breaking your budget, Hotel Miyajima Villa is a great option! This new hotel is tastefully decorated, transporting you away from the tourist crowds. You can also opt for a room with a sea view or a mountain view.
Location: only a 3-minute walk from the ferry terminal, Hotel Miyajima Villa is super convenient if you don’t want to carry your luggage very far (which is all of us!)
If you want to treat yo’ self: Kinsuikan
If you’re celebrating a special occasion, or you just want to treat yo’ self, this is a great option for you! Kinsuikan is a ryokan (or traditional Japanese Inn) that is known for its super helpful staff.
After a long day of sightseeing, you can relax in the onsen (hot springs) and enjoy dinner (which is included in your rate). A traditional Japanese breakfast is also included… Warning: you may never want to leave 😉
Location: Kinsuikan is only a 10-minute walk from the ferry terminal. It’s close enough to be convenient (yay you don’t have to carry your luggage far!) but far enough that you don’t feel like you’re constantly surrounded by the crowds of tourists!
I loved my time on Miyajima and would recommend everyone to include this beautiful island on their Japan trip. Regardless of how long you spend on Miyajima Island, you are guaranteed to love your time here!
I’d love to know: are you planning a trip to Japan? Are you including Miyajima Island on your itinerary?
Leave me a comment and let me know!