Miyajima is an island near Hiroshima famous for the giant floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine, which is ranked as one of Japan’s three best views. This Miyajima Island touring plan offers a step-by-step itinerary for seeing the giant torii at both low and high tide, the ropeway to Mt. Misen, temples, great food, and those devious deer around Miyajima as a day-trip from Hiroshima, Japan.
When it comes to visiting Miyajima Island, there’s a lot of good news. First, there’s a ton to great things to see, do, and eat. Second, the island’s main points of interest are in a relatively compact area and entirely walkable. Finally, it’s possible to experience the majority of the island’s highlights in a single day from Hiroshima if you leave early.
As a result of all this, Miyajima Island is one of our top destinations in all of Japan. In Our Top 10 Japan Experiences (So Far), we ranked Miyajima #3, and with Peace Memorial Park also on that list, that should be compelling reason to take the Shinkansen to Western Japan and plan at least a couple of nights in Hiroshima.
Since visiting Miyajima will take the entire day, we’d highly recommend arriving at the ferry dock (which is about ~5 minutes from Miyajimaguchi Station by foot, which is about 30 minutes from Hiroshima Station via the Sanyo Line) by around 8 a.m., once you’re off the boat and onto Miyajima Island, our itinerary begins…
Miyajima Coffee – Start your morning with a nice jolt of caffeine along with some exceptional pastries at Miyajima Coffee.
They also have a variety of specialty drinks and even heartier meals, but we’d recommend only a quick snack at this point to tide you over for the next ~4 hours.
Close Encounters of the Deer Kind – One of the underrated aspects of Miyajima–and a component of the experience we weren’t even prepared for–is the friendly deer throughout the island.
These are the same type of wild deer that have become semi-domesticated through human interactions that you’ll find in Nara, Japan. While there are far fewer deer around Itsukushima Shrine, there are still a lot, and they will approach you. This is a fun experience, especially if you don’t visit Nara. (Just be careful–they’re thieves!)
Itsukushima Shrine – This is Miyajima’s main draw, and the primary reason you’re visiting. Since there’s typically 6-7 hours between high tide and low tide, you can often walk under the torii at low tide and see it floating at high tide in the same day.
With a little luck, one of those times will be around when you arrive on Miyajima Island. For your first visit, focus solely on the torii, getting your photos and marveling at the great gate, but not allocating any time to the interior buildings of the shrine.
If you have multiple days in the Hiroshima area, we would highly recommend scheduling your visit to Miyajima Island around the tide tables to ensure you can experience both low and high tide. (We’d go as far as suggesting you should plan your entire trip to Japan around this, if necessary.)
Momijidani Park – With a name translating to “Maple Park,” Momijidani is a park stretching along Momijidani River in a valley at the base of Mount Misen that has over 200 maple trees.
This is a lovely little park, featuring a variety of walking trails and seasonal highlights. Those include cherry blossoms in spring, bright green leaves in summer, and fiery foliage in fall. Even if you’re not particularly keen on public parks, you’ll walk through this to get to Miyajima Ropeway Station (don’t bother with the shuttle).
Miyajima Ropeway Station – This gondola system advertises itself as being “like walking on air” and that’s not inaccurate. Miyajima Ropeway affords magnificent views of the Seto Inland Sea and Miyajima’s primeval forest during the ~10 minute ride to the top of the ropeway.
Note that the upper ropeway terminal is not the summit of Mt. Misen; that requires another ~30 minutes by foot. While you could skip the ropeway completely and hike all the way to the top of Mount Misen, that’s a bit too time-consuming for this itinerary. Instead, purchase a one-way ticket up the ropeway.
Mt. Misen Hike & Shishiiwa Observatory – Once you arrive at the top of the ropeway, you’ve got another ~30 minute hike along the clearly-marked walking trail. This a moderately-intense hike, with some portions being steep (but completely safe). It’s scenic and beautiful, with several subtemple buildings, including Misen Hondo and Reikado along the way.
Once you reach Shishiiwa Observatory, you’ll find a large rocky area to explore that offers a panoramic view of the island and outlying islands. There’s also a multi-story observatory, which has restrooms, snacks, etc.
Daisho-in Course Hike – There are three different hiking paths you can take to get back down to the main area of Miyajima: Momijidani Course, Daisho-in Course, and Omoto Course. You can read about the differences of each (albeit on the way up) on Miyajima’s official site. If you were to hike up, it’d take around 2 hours, but on the way down this can be as quick as 45 minutes.
In a nutshell, Daisho-in Course is the shortest option and has some nice views, including aerial views of the great floating torii; it also ends at Daisho-in Temple, which is convenient. If you’re starting the hike down before noon, consider doing the longer Omoto Course instead and doubling-back to Daisho-in Temple.
Daisho-in Temple – Overshadowed by its famous counterpart, we actually enjoyed Daisho-in Temple a lot. It had variety, detailed halls, and interesting statues. Oh, and it’s free.
With that said, the biggest draw is the natural landscape. This would probably be stunning year-round, but we visited during the heart of fall colors season, and it was one of the prettiest places we visited in Japan. I’m not sure to what extent our opinions were colored by this vibrance, but we thought this was an exceptional temple.
Kakiya Oyster Shop – This restaurant specializes in oysters, and absolutely does not disappoint. It’s the best oysters I’ve ever had, and some of the largest, too.
Kakiya does get busy during the lunch and dinner hours, but with this itinerary, you should be hitting it after the lunch rush. We recommend ordering their sampler set that features 5 different kinds of oysters (that’s not what’s pictured), plus some fried oysters…plus more, if you want. We ordered two sets plus the fried oyster plate and the two of us still wished we had ordered more.
Omotesando Street & Momiji Manju – If you’re stuffed at this point, do the next stop first, and then double-back to Omotesando Street, which is the main shopping, restaurant, and snack area. It’s really touristy, but it’s also features an incredibly high concentration of great street food and desserts.
The quintessential Miyajima snack is the Momiji Manjyu, which is a sweet bean paste pastry. This dessert is freshly-made at a number of shops in the area, and it’s fun to watch them being made through windows. The quality of Momiji Manjyu is pretty consistent from shop to shop (we comparison taste-tested for the sake of research). A variety of flavors are available, and we recommend trying as many as you can–seasonal and sweet bean varieties should be prioritized.
Hokoku Shrine – Frequently referred to as Senjokaku Hall, which is the name of the main hall that is the size of one thousand tatami mats. Senjokaku Hall dates to 1587 and is rather spartan. Adjacent to it on the same hillside overlooking Itsukushima Shrine is a 5-story pagoda.
Senjokaku Hall is one of the few temple areas on Miyajima Island to charge admission and while the fee was nominal, I wouldn’t say you’re really missing out if you skip it. More time enjoying the sunset and rising tide at the great torii would not necessarily be a bad thing in place of Senjokaku Hall.
Itsukushima Shrine – Watching the tide come in just before sunset ranks as one of my all-time favorite travel memories from Japan. More than just timing a visit to Miyajima Island so you can see both low and high tide, I’d recommend timing a visit so you can see high tide occurring at sunset if at all possible.
From golden hour through sunset until nightfall, we sat in pretty much the same spot, legs hanging over a retaining wall as the ground below us went from totally dry to being submerged in several feet of water. We were in more or less the same spot for nearly 3 hours, and it was a perfect way to end the day on Miyajima Island. (Prior to that, we also headed inside Itsukushima Shrine and the nearby Treasure Hall; we’d highly recommend the former, and recommend skipping the latter.)
After that, we returned to Omotesando Street where we ate, drank, and perused the shops. After sunset, Miyajima quickly cleared of tourists, which made for a surprisingly serene setting, at least as compared to earlier in the day. We finally took one of the last ferries back off the island, and caught a train back to downtown Hiroshima. We had an incredibly satisfying day by following this itinerary that we’d created for ourselves, and hopefully it will assist you in having an equally enjoyable experience!
Have you ever visited Miyajima Island? What do you think of it? Is visiting the great torii at low and high tide on your travel bucket list? Any questions or other comments about this Japan itinerary? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!