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Miyajima has been considered a holy place for most of Japanese history. In 806 AD, the monk Kobo Daishi ascended Mt. Misen and opened the mountain as an ascetic site for the Shingon sect of Buddhism.

In the years since then, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines have maintained a close relationship on the island. These days, strict measures are taken to ensure that the modern town retains a classically Japanese Edo-era look, very much a rarity in Japan and a large reason for the town's attractiveness.

There are still a few bits of concrete warren that snuck in, but the seafront promenade is particularly attractive, especially later in the day when the rampaging tour groups head home and the stone lanterns are turned on. Deer wander freely in the streets and parks. While somewhat more restrained than their counterparts in Nara they're still eager for a hand-out. Principal attractions

Itsukushima Shrine

Miyajima's main sight, the shrine is a large, red-lacquered complex of halls and pathways on stilts, originally so built that commoners could visit without defiling the island with their footprints.

The floating torii

The gate of the shrine, standing in the bay in front of the shrine, is Miyajima's best known symbol. Note that whether the torii is "floating" or merely mired in mud depends on the tide.


The name means "1000 Mat Pavilion", a fairly apt description of this gigantic wooden hall which doesn't actually contain much other than empty space. It was originally built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1587. There's also a picturesque 5-story pagoda (Gojuto) next door.


A major Buddhist temple a short distance above Itsukushima Shrine. It's nestled into the hills so it's easily missed by tourists, but it features a number of interesting sights. Look for the Dai-hannyakyo Sutra the golden prayer wheels that are said to bring enormous fortune to anyone who touches them. The temple hosted the Dalai Lama in 2005.


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