Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Miyajima and the Great Torii Gate

Many people know that the Itsukushima Shrine, the shrine with a torii gate floating on the sea, is a World Heritage Site. But do you know it isn’t just the shrine itself that was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

And when you ask where to find deer in Japan, most people will tell you to go to Nara. But what about Miyajima? There are also deer walking freely around this sacred island. The deer on Miyajima can be much more friendly and cheeky than those in Nara (≧▽≦).

© photo-ac.com

Miyajima (宮島), formally known as Itsukushima (厳島), is a sacred island known for its forests, ancient shrines, and temples. The island renowned for its massive, vermillion Great Torii Gate dipping its legs in the ocean at high tide is now one of the top destinations in Japan!

As the beautiful island is separated from Japan’s main island, catching a ferry from Hiroshima is practically the only way that you can access the island unless you can kayak all the way across the sea (´▽`*).

List of Attractions on Miyajima

How to Get to Miyajima

Ferry to Miyajima Japan
© photo-ac.com

Before you get too excited, we want to break it to you that the pier for ferries heading to Miyajima is nowhere close to Hiroshima City, unfortunately (;´・ω・).

From JR Hiroshima Station (広島駅), you need to take the JR San’yō Honsen Line (山陽本線) towards JR Miyajimaguchi Station (宮島口駅). It is a 30-minute train ride but notes that it can be packed (which was the case for us).

Tips:
☛ If the train is packed, it might be hard to board or get off the train with suitcases. Utilize the coin lockers that can be rented for more than 24 hours or the luggage storage service providers. If you don’t know where to find one, check out ecbocloak!.
☛ If you plan to stay in Hiroshima for a night or two after you visit Miyajima, most hotels will be happy for you to store your luggage with them. Some are even happy for you to store your luggage there when you go on a few-day adventure before you come back to pick up your belongings after you check out. It won’t hurt to at least ask!

At Miyajimaguchi Pier

Two companies provide ferry services to Miyajima – JR West Japan Miyajima Ferry (JR西日本宮島フェリー) and Miyajima Matsudai Kisen (宮島松大汽船).

Both companies’ ferries will carry you to Miyajima in 10 minutes and cost the same. But depending on your situation and whether you would like some discounts, you will choose one over another.

  • 180 yen for a one-way trip
  • 360 yen for a return trip
  • Elementary school students’ ferry fare is half of the adult’s fare
JR Miyajima Ferry
© photo-ac.com

The pros and cons for each company are listed below!

JR West Japan Miyajima Ferry

Pros:

  • No extra cost is incurred if you hold a valid JR pass covering the Hiroshima area
  • Provides better photo opportunities with most of their services.
    • We say “most” because not all of them go through the same route. Please refer to their website HERE for more details, including the ferry timetable link. The services that are highlighted in blue are the ones that you want to take
  • Longer operating hours from 5:45 am to 10:42 pm

Cons

  • No discounts/freebies

Miyajima Matsudai Kisen

Pros:

  • Special tickets at 500 yen, including a return ferry ticket and one of the below to choose from that give you at least 40 yen saving per ticket
    • Momiji manjū (もみじ饅頭) from Momijidō (紅葉堂). Momiji manjū is a type of dessert that has different fillings for you to choose from. Please refer to their website HERE for some photos of the dessert
    • Momiji Croissant (もみじクロワッサン) from Torii-ya (鳥居屋). Again, it is a kind of dessert. Please refer HERE for some ideas of what it looks like
    • 200 yen cash voucher to spend at Yamada-ya (やまだ屋)
  • Miyajima Ferry + Ropeway Combo Ticket
    • The 1,800 yen combo ticket includes a return ferry ticket and a return ropeway ticket which will save you 400 yen
    • The 1,000 yen combo ticket includes a return ferry ticket and a one-way ropeway ticket which will save you 370 yen
  • You can purchase the 1-Day Streetcar and Ferry Pass (950 yen for adults and 450 yen for children).
    • As Miyajima Matsudai Kisen is part of the Hiroshima Electric Railway Company (Hiroden), this pass gives you unlimited train rides on the company’s rail line and Miyajima
    • At least 140 yen saving if you are coming from Hiroshima Station
    • By showing your pass to the staff at Miyajima Ropeway to get a discounted fare
    • For more details, please refer to the company’s website HERE. Note that the discounted fare for ropeway is only shown on their Japanese website HERE. You can translate the webpage by Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar

Cons:

  • The ferries won’t bring you as close to the Great Torii gate as the JR ferries would
  • About the 1-Day Streetcar and Ferry Pass
    • Not suitable for those who are staying overnight at Miyajima
    • The ropeway may not be in operation during bad weather
    • It takes around 70 minutes to travel from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station by Hiroden

Tip: If you are driving or biking, you can drive your car onto the ferries that are operated by both companies (ferry fare depends on the size of your vehicle, of course).

Important: The pier for the two companies is just next to each other. Please read the signboard carefully before you rush onto one or another.

Please HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Miyajima.

Arriving Miyajima

Miyajima Pier Hiroshima Japan

As soon as you get off the ferry, there should be sightseeing pamphlets in many languages if you want to grab a few.

Also, the day’s high/low tide time and the service status of Miyajima Ropeway can also be found around the pier (and probably on the ferry).

Heading to Your Accommodation First

If you are like us, going to stay overnight on the island (which we recommend), the last thing you want to do is dragging suitcases everywhere.

 So first thing first, drop off your belongings at the accommodation you booked to stay and be as light as possible while you sightsee (=゚ω゚)ノ.

 We chose Mikuniya (三國屋), which is more like a guesthouse because of all the good reviews, and it is relatively cheap (12,000 yen for a really spacious room for two people)!

Mikunioya Guesthouse Miyajima Japan
Check out our experience at Mikuniya by clicking the photo!

It is a little far, at 10 to 15-minute away from the pier, but we fully enjoyed our stay (while playing with the owner’s cat (´▽`*)).

Tip: If you plan to spend a night in Miyajima, book your accommodation early, especially during the cherry blossom and the fall foliage period!

About the Deer in Miyajima

Deer In Miyajima Japan

By the time you reach your accommodation, you will have realized the island is home to a big population of the “divine messenger” – deer.

You might also notice that no one is selling deer crackers, which is a bit sad when you have nothing appropriate to feed them when they come up to you…

Please note, unlike Nara, on Miyajima, giving deer food is prohibited to ensure they stay healthy. This includes all paper products such as maps and sightseeing pamphlets that the deer will come to grab from you.

The hardest thing on Miyajima is probably remembering to make sure there are no deer around you before you take the maps out of your bag (≧▽≦).

There was a cheeky one that actually dug his head into one of our bags and started eating while we were resting and chatting on a bench…(´▽`*).

Deer In Miyajima Japan

Please HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Miyajima.

Miyajima Omotesandō Shōtengai/Kiyomori-Dōri (宮島表参道商店街/清盛通り)

Miyajima Omotesandō Shōtengai/Kiyomori-Dōri Miyajima Japan
© Hiroshima Tourism Association

The busiest area on the island is, of course, the shopping street – Kiyomori-Dōri. Shops selling Miyajima’s specialties and traditional crafts are lined up one after another, making it the perfect spot to empty out your wallet (´▽`*).

This is also one of the places in Japan that are the least vegetarian-friendly because the island is famous for its oysters and conger eel…

And remember, if you got one of those special tickets from Miyajima Matsudai Kisen that comes with a Momiji Manjū or Momiji Croissant with your ferry tickets, both Momijidō and Torii-ya are one of the shops on this street. So don’t forget to exchange your delicious desserts while shopping for souvenirs! If you got one of the cash vouchers to spend at Yamada-ya (やまだ屋), the shop is on this street as well.

Tip: If you are looking for a vegan/vegetarian menu, TACHIBANA (お食事処 たち花) seems like a good place to visit as people mentioned they have an English vegan/vegetarian menu. As the restaurant serves Japanese cuisine, we have a little doubt about whether the broth for noodle soups and curry is really free of any animal products. So if you are strict with your diet, utilize the phrases in our Essential Travel Phrases for Vegetarian article (^_-)-☆.
Another option, while more expensive, is the shōjin ryōri (精進料理) at Daishōin Temple. This will guarantee the entire meal is meat/fish-free!

Ō-Shakushi/Big Rice Scoop (おお杓子)

One of the other things that Miyajima is known for is its woodworking. Because of the excellent woodworkers, various magnificent wooden structures on the island, such as Itsukushima Shrine, could be built and maintained until today.

The most jaw-dropping thing to see on the island is, however, this gigantic rice scoop on display in the middle of the shopping district Σ(゚Д゚).

Ō-Shakushi At Miyajima Omotesandō Shōtengai/Kiyomori-Dōri Miyajima Japan

As the originator of the rice scoop, this scoop was made to promote the island’s woodworking. Though we doubt anyone has used the 7.7 meters long, 2.7 meters wide rice scoop that weights 2.5 tonnes (´▽`*).

Please HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Miyajima.


Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社)

Night Time Light Up Itsukushima Shrine Miyajima Japan
© photo-ac.com

When people talk about Miyajima, the first thing that will pop up in their mind is most likely the giant “floating” torii gate. In fact, at high tide, the entire shrine seems to float on water! If you have ever wondered which shrine’s precinct the torii gate is marking, it is Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社), one of the best attractions on Miyajima! 

For more information about this gorgeous shrine, including kayaking or cruising to the Great Torii Gate, please refer to our article on Itsukushima Shrine!

Please HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Miyajima.

Daishōin Temple (大聖院)

In addition to Itsukushima Shrine, Daishōin Temple (大聖院) on the top of a hill is another attraction on Miyajima that you should visit. The temple has the longest history among all the attractions on the sacred island. On top of the spectacular view from the temple, there are a few amazing things to see in its precinct!

Moreover, with advanced booking, you can taste the delicious Shōjin Ryōri in their gorgeous hall.

Daishōin Temple Gate Miyajima Japan

For more information, please refer to our article on Daishōin!

Please HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Miyajima.

Momijidani Park (紅葉谷公園)

Momijidani River Miyajima Japan

Utilizing the Momijihodō Nature Walk (refer to map HERE) close to Daishōin Temple’s main gate, you will soon arrive at Momijidani Park. On the park’s outskirts, close to the shopping street, the Momijindani River is flowing quietly.

This spot of Miyajima is where you can find most deer and one of the best spots for cherry blossom in spring! So adding cute deer and gorgeous pink flowers together, you get the best possible photo of Japan’s spring (=゚ω゚)ノ.

From the Edo Period (1603 – 1867), the seedlings of maple trees were planted where today’s Momijidani Park is.

Every year from mid to late November, tourists flock to Miyajima to adorn the beauty of the fiery fall-leaf-covered park! No matter where you are and what angle, we assure you that there will be no photo that you want to delete later on (=゚ω゚)ノ.

And just like during the cherry blossom season, your relaxing stroll over the stunning park is most likely to be accompanied by deer that might come up to you thinking of treats!

Not only spring and autumn, the greenery in summer, and the snow scenery in the park are also why Miyajima remains one of the most popular destinations in the Chūgoku Area of Japan’s island.

Momijidani Park Miyajima Japan

Mt. Misen (弥山) and the Miyajima Ropeway (宮島ロープウエー)

Miyajima-Ropeway-Hiroshima-Japan

Another attraction you won’t want to miss out on when you visit Miyajima is the summit of Mt. Misen (弥山), for the magnificent scenery up at the summit and to explore Mt. Misen’s Seven Wonders!

In addition to the scenery, you will also find Miyajima’s Seven Wonders at the top of the mountain.

For more information, please refer to our article on Mt. Misen and Miyajima Ropeway!

Please HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Miyajima.

Toyokuni Shrine Five-Story Pagoda (五重塔)

If you catch the free shuttle bus on the way back from Miyajima Ropeway, it is only a 4-minute walk to Toyokuni Shrine from where you get off the bus!

Erected in 1407, it is designated as a national important cultural property and, unfortunately, can only be admired from the outside at the moment. But it is still a great spot for some awesome photos, and even the level of detail of the painting and carving on the exterior of the pagoda is amazing enough (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Toyokuni SShrine Five-Story Pagoda Miyajima Japan
© photo-ac.com

How to Get to Toyukuni Shrine Five-Story Pagoda

  • It is just a 2-minute walk from the Itsukushima Shrine or a 4-minute walk from the free shuttle bus stop outside of Hotel Iwaso (ホテル岩惣) at the entrance of the Momijidani Park (紅葉谷公園)
  • No admission fee is required

Senjokaku Pavilion (豊国神社(千畳閣))

Your visit to the Itsukushima Shrine won’t be complete without climbing out a set of staircases to the Senjokaku Pavilion located at the high ground close to the Itsukushima Shrine!

Also known as the Toyotomi Shrine, the pavilion was built under the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉) in 1587. It is the biggest pavilion on Miyajima island. Because 857 tatami mats cover the floor of the pavilion, the pavilion (kaku in Japanese) was called “senjō” which means a thousand tatami mats in Japanese.

Senjokaku Pavilion Miyajima Japan
© photo-ac.com

You will notice that parts of the ceiling and the pavilion’s wall aren’t completed. This is because the pavilion was left unfinished after Toyotomi Hideyoshi passed away.

The big buddha statue in the pavilion was removed in the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), and now it is where Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Katō Kiyomasa (加藤 清正) are enshrined.

As an important cultural property of Japan, this wooden pavilion is where you can feel the culture of the Momoyama period and Hideyoshi’s power (and one of the spots with a great view of the island)!

Senjokaku Pavilion’s Opening Hours and Admission Fee

  • Senjokaku Pavilion is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • The admission fees are
    • 100 yen for adults
    • 50 yen for elementary and junior high school students

Please HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Miyajima.

Cafe Tenshinkaku (天心閣)

Walking on your feet for a couple of hours can be quite tiring. If you need some rest, we recommend this cafe that is on one of the small hills at the back of the Miyajima Omotesandō Shōtengai.

The cafe is operated by the Miyajima-originated brand – Itsuki Coffee (伊都岐). The brand is well-known for its coffee roasting techniques. Including Tenshikaku, it has five cafes just on Miyajima.

Apart from the coffee and cakes, the best thing about the cafe is its magnificent view of the pagoda and the Senjokaku Pavilion with the Seto Inland Sea as a backdrop!

Although the coffee itself isn’t cheap (starting at 550 yen), it is totally a more than reasonable price if you get to spend a relaxing afternoon with this great view in front of you (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Tenshikaku’s Business Hours and Access Method

  • The cafe is only open from 2 to 5 pm from Friday to Tuesday, excluding public holidays
  • The cafe is just a 10-minute walk from Miyajima Pier!

The Best Time to Visit Miyajima

Apart from when there are events held at Daishōin Temple, below is a list of other times of the year when you will have extra fun visiting Miyajima.

  • Late March – early April: cherry blossom season
  • End of March: Kiyomori Festival (宮島清盛まつり)
  • The 15th of April: Tōkasai (桃花祭) – Peach Blossom Festival
  • August (not held in 2022): Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival (宮島水中花火大会)
  • The 15th of Oct: Kikkasai (菊花祭) – Chrysanthemum Blossom Festival

For more details about the festivals, please refer to this website HERE.

To know where to admire the cherry blossom and fall foliage, please refer to the map HERE. Cherry blossom trees are marked with pink flowers, and the fall foliage is labeled with orange maple leaves.

Discover the Best Places to Visit in Hiroshima City

Before you can get to Miyajima, you must transit at Hiroshima Station. So, how about spending a day exploring this city? You will be amazed by how well the city has recovered from the bombing of World War II!

To find out where to go and what to eat, refer to our article on Hiroshima City!

Peace-Bell-in-Peace-Memorial-Park-Hiroshima-Japan
Click the photo to find out more about the attractions in Hiroshima City!

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