UNESCO World Heritage Site Itsukushima, or Miyajima as it is more commonly known, is located in the Seto Inland Sea not far from Hiroshima. Densely wooded and tranquil the island has been worshipped since ancient times as a sacred place where people and gods live together in harmony.
Miyajima means ‘Shrine Island’, with Itsukushima Shrine and its familiar floating red torii gate rising out of the sea it’s easy to see why. Rightfully claimed as one of Hayashi Razan’s Three Views of Japan, it’s the first thing you see as you approach the island by ferry.
The island is small and mountainous, the largest, Mt. Misen, accessible by cable car or footpath. Sparsely populated, deer and monkeys roam freely and are tame enough to enable you to walk among them without too much bother. A fantastic time to visit is Autumn when the woods and forests come into their own. The natural beauty of hundreds of maple leaves turning from bright golden yellows to rich reds in a swathe up the mountainside is uniquely Japanese.
Popular with tourists, Miyajima is of course best minus the hoards. If you have time it is worth staying at one of the hostels or guest houses, enabling you to leisurely wander the streets and woods, or relax in a natural onsen (hot spring).
Miyajima is a short train or tram ride from central Hiroshima down to the ferry port of Miyajimaguchi. From here the JR ferry takes about 10 minutes. You can travel on the train and ferry using your Japan Rail Pass.