Last updated
Native name:
Nickname: Miyajima
Miyajima Island.jpg
Itsukushima Island
Japan location map with side map of the Ryukyu Islands.svg
Red pog.svg
Hiroshima geolocalisation.svg
Red pog.svg
Location Inland Sea
Coordinates Coordinates: 34°16′32″N132°18′28″E / 34.27556°N 132.30778°E / 34.27556; 132.30778
Area30.39 km2 (11.73 sq mi)
Highest elevation535 m (1755 ft)
Highest point Mount Misen
This torii at the Itsukushima Shrine welcomes visitors to the island. Itsukushima Gate.jpg
This torii at the Itsukushima Shrine welcomes visitors to the island.
Overview of Miyajima / Itsukushima island in the Inland Sea from the east direction, Japan Miyajima island.jpg
Overview of Miyajima / Itsukushima island in the Inland Sea from the east direction, Japan

Itsukushima (厳島) is an island in the western part of the Inland Sea of Japan, located in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay. It is popularly known as Miyajima (宮島), which in Japanese means "Shrine Island". [1] The island is one of Hayashi Gahō's Three Views of Japan specified in 1643. Itsukushima is part of the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture. The island was part of the former town of Miyajima before the 2005 merger with Hatsukaichi.


Itsukushima is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [2] According to records, the shrine was established in the time of Empress Suiko. The warrior-courtier Taira no Kiyomori gave the shrine its present form. In 1555, Mōri Motonari defeated Sue Harukata at the Battle of Miyajima. Toyotomi Hideyoshi built a large building, the Senjō-kaku, on a hill above the shrine.

Itsukushima has a number of temples, including Toyokuni Shrine with a five-storied pagoda, [3] and Daiganji Temple - one of the three most famous Benzaiten temples of Japan. [4] The island is also famous for its upper hill side cherry blossoms and maple leaf autumn foliage. [5]

The island of Itsukushima, including the waters around it (part of Seto Inland Sea), lies within Setonaikai National Park. This sea is affected by strong tides. At low tide, the bottom of the sea is exposed past the island's torii. At high tide, the sea covers all the previously exposed seabed mud and fills areas underneath the shrine boardwalk.

Location and geography

An aerial view of the Itsukushima-jinja torii and the main island from the ropeway/hiking trails of Miyajima. A Miyajima view Itsukushima Shrine.jpg
An aerial view of the Itsukushima-jinja torii and the main island from the ropeway/hiking trails of Miyajima.

Itsukushima is mountainous and sparsely settled. It has an elementary school and a middle school. There are no traffic signals. It is rural and mountainous, only 30.39 square kilometres (11.73 sq mi), and has a population of about 2000. There are no cities, only small towns with simple houses and privately owned shops. The islanders work hard to preserve the forests and respect nature.

Frequent ferry services, operated by JR West (JR Miyajima ferry) and by Miyajima Matsudai Tourist Ship, carry traffic between the island and the mainland at Miyajimaguchi. The trip takes about ten minutes. [6] There is an hourly express passenger ferry to Hiroshima harbour.

Miyajima's maple trees are renowned throughout Japan and blanket the island in crimson in the autumn. Momiji manjū, pastries filled with azuki jam or custard, are popular souvenirs and carry maple-leaf emblems. Many other varieties such as chocolate and cheese are available. [7] Because the island is seen as sacred, trees may not be cut for lumber. Deer roam freely. Deer are thought of as sacred in the native Shinto religion because they are considered messengers of the gods. They walk the streets of the city, not afraid of the tourists.

Autumn colours on Miyajima Island Japan Autumn colours on Miyajima Island Japan.jpg
Autumn colours on Miyajima Island Japan

The shamoji, a style of wooden paddle used to serve cooked rice without impairing the taste, is said to have been invented by a monk who lived on the island. The shamoji is a popular souvenir, and there are some outsized examples around the shopping district.

The peak of Mount Misen, at 535 m, is the highest point on the island. [8] Miyajima Ropeway carries visitors to within a 30-minute hike to the top. There are several sites related to the historic Buddhist priest and founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師) (774–835), including Daishō-in, near the top. [9]

The island contains the Miyajima Natural Botanical Garden (宮島自然植物実験所, Miyajima Shizen Shokubutsu Jikkensho) on its north coast.

People often take the short ferry ride from mainland Japan to pray at Miyajima’s shrines and to marvel at the beauty of its forests. Shrines on the island include Senjokaku (Toyokuni Shrine), Five-storied Pagoda, Two-storied Pagoda, Kiyomori Shrine, and Omoto Shrine. [10]

Shrines and temples

Note that in Japan, the term "shrine" implies a Shinto religious structure and "temple" implies a Buddhist one.

Itsukushima Shrine

Miyajima is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社, Itsukushima-jinja) which is a Shinto shrine. It is known for its "floating" torii gate. [11] The historic shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of the National Treasures by the Japanese government.

Daiganji Temple

Daiganji Temple in Miyajima Daiganji Temple (Miyajima) - DSC02249.JPG
Daiganji Temple in Miyajima

Next to the Itsukushima Shrine is Daiganji Temple, dedicated to Goddess Benzaiten as well as three Buddhas important to Shingon Buddhism. [4] Benzaiten Goddess in Japan has been traced to Goddess Saraswati of Hinduism in India. [12] She is the Goddess of eloquence, music, arts, wealth and knowledge. The three Buddha in the temple are Gautama Buddha, Wisdom Buddha and Mercy Buddha.

Daiganji Temple is one of the three most famous Benzaiten Temples in Japan, along with Enoshima Benzaiten (Kanagawa) and Chikubujima Benzaiten (Shiga). The Benzaiten is opened to the public only once every year on June 17. On this day, Miyajima holds a big festival, and people of the region visit the temple to offer their prayers. [13]

The precise date for the first construction of Daiganji Benzaiten temple is unclear. It was reconstructed around 1200 AD in the Kamakura period. The construction date of Itsukushima-jinja and Daiganji temple is estimated to be 6th century or later, and the existence of Itsukushima-jinja is confirmed by early 9th century by ancient Japanese texts. The Nihon Koki confirms the sacredness of these Miyajama structures during the Heian Period (794-1184). [2]

Daishō-in Temple

Daishō-in is a historic Japanese temple on Mount Misen, the holy mountain on the island. It is the 14th temple in the Chūgoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage and famous for the maple trees and their autumn colors. It is also called "Suishō-ji". As the headquarters of the Omuro branch of Shingon Buddhism, it is the most important temple of Miyajima. The temple was the administrator of the Itsukushima shrine before Meiji Restoration forbade (Shinbutsu bunri) syncretism (Shinbutsu-shūgō) between Shinto and Buddhism in 1868. [14]

Senjokaku (Toyokuni Shrine)

Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Senjo-kaku overlooks Taira no Kiyomori's Itsukushima Shrine MiyajimaSenjokaku7474.jpg
Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Senjō-kaku overlooks Taira no Kiyomori's Itsukushima Shrine

Senjokaku (lit. "pavilion of 1000 mats") is the largest structure at Miyajima Island as the name implies. Toyotomi Hideyoshi started construction of Senjokaku as a Buddhist library in which the chanting of Senbu-kyo sutras could be held for fallen soldiers. [15] Hideyoshi died in 1598 and the building was never fully completed. Originally, Amitabha Buddha and two Buddhist saints, Ānanda and Mahākāśyapa, were enshrined in the structure until the Meiji reformation. when the structure was converted into a Shinto shrine dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Numerous votive picture tablets that had been hanging in the Itsukushima Shrine buildings until the Meiji era, have been hung on the walls inside the hall.

Five-storied Pagoda (Gojunoto)

Five-Tiered Pagoda at Itsukushima Shrine Five-Tiered Pagoda (Miyajima).jpg
Five-Tiered Pagoda at Itsukushima Shrine

The nearby Five-storied Pagoda constructed in 1407 (thus predating Senjokaku) enshrined Yakushi Nyorai Zazo, the Buddha of Medicine said to have been made by Kobo Daishi himself, accompanied by Fugen Bosatsu (Mercy Buddha) and Monju Bosatsu (Wisdom Buddha). The three images were moved to the Daiganji Temple during the Meiji reformation.

See also

Related Research Articles

Hiroshima Prefecture Prefecture of Japan

Hiroshima Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chūgoku region of Honshu. Hiroshima Prefecture has a population of 2,811,410 and has a geographic area of 8,479 km². Hiroshima Prefecture borders Okayama Prefecture to the east, Tottori Prefecture to the northeast, Shimane Prefecture to the north, and Yamaguchi Prefecture to the southwest.

Benzaiten Japanese Buddhist goddess who originated from the Hindu goddess Saraswati

Benzaiten is a Japanese Buddhist goddess who originated from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries, mainly via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her. She is also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra and often depicted holding a biwa, a traditional Japanese lute, just as Saraswati holds a veena. Benzaiten is a syncretic entity with both a Buddhist and a Shinto aspect. Benzaiten was worshiped as the personification of wisdom in the Tokugawa period.

Aki Province Former province of Japan

Aki Province or Geishū (藝州/芸州) was a province in the Chūgoku Region of western Honshū, comprising the western part of what is today Hiroshima Prefecture.

Itsukushima Shrine Shinto shrine in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan

Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima, best known for its "floating" torii gate. It is in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan. The shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Japanese government has designated several buildings and possessions as National Treasures.

Shinto shrine Japanese shrine of the Shinto religion

A Shinto shrine is a structure whose main purpose is to house ("enshrine") one or more kami. Its most important building is used for the safekeeping of sacred objects and not for worship. Although only one word ("shrine") is used in English, in Japanese, Shinto shrines may carry any one of many different, non-equivalent names like gongen, -gū, jinja, jingū, mori, myōjin, -sha, taisha, ubusuna or yashiro.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangū

Tsurugaoka Hachimangū (鶴岡八幡宮) is the most important Shinto shrine in the city of Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. The shrine is at the geographical and cultural center of the city of Kamakura, which has largely grown around it and its 1.8 km approach. It is the venue of many of its most important festivals, and hosts two museums.

Japanese dragon

Japanese dragons are diverse legendary creatures in Japanese mythology and folklore. Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. The style of the dragon was heavily influenced by the Chinese dragon. Like these other East Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. The modern Japanese language has numerous "dragon" words, including indigenous Tatsu from Old Japanese ta-tu, Sino-Japanese ryū or ryō 竜 from Chinese lóng 龍, nāga ナーガ from Sanskrit nāga, and doragon ドラゴン from English "dragon".

Buddhist temples in Japan

Buddhist temples or Buddhist monasteries together with Shinto shrines, are considered to be amongst the most numerous, famous, and important religious buildings in Japan. The shogunates or leaders of Japan have made it a priority to update and rebuild Buddhist temples since the Momoyama period. The Japanese word for a Buddhist monastery is tera (寺) and the same kanji also has the pronunciation ji, so that temple names frequently end in -dera or -ji. Another ending, -in (院), is normally used to refer to minor temples. Such famous temples as Kiyomizu-dera, Enryaku-ji and Kōtoku-in are temples which use the described naming pattern.


Daishō-in or Daisyō-in (大聖院) is a historic Japanese temple complex with many temples and statues on Mount Misen, the holy mountain on the island of Itsukushima, off the coast of Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, Japan. It is the 14th temple in the Chūgoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage and famous for the maple trees and their autumn colors. It is also called "Suishō-ji" (水精寺). Including Mt. Misen, Daishō-in is within the World Heritage Area of Itsukushima Shrine.

Mount Misen

Mount Misen is the sacred mountain on Itsukushima in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, Japan, and is the highest mountain on the island at 535 m; it is situated within the World Heritage area of Itsukushima Shrine.

Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine

Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine, popularly known simply as Zeniarai Benten, is a Shinto shrine in Kamakura, Kanagawa, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. In spite of its small size, it is the second most popular spot in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture after Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū. Zeniarai Benzaiten is popular among tourists because the waters of a spring in its cave are said to be able to multiply the money washed in it. The object of worship is a syncretic kami which fuses a traditional spirit called Ugafukujin (宇賀福神) with the Buddhist goddess of Indian origin Sarasvati, known in Japanese as Benzaiten. The shrine is one of the minority in Japan which still shows the fusion of native religious beliefs and foreign Buddhism which was normal before the Meiji restoration. Zeniarai Benzaiten used to be an external massha of Ōgigayatsu's Yazaka Daijin (八坂大神), but became independent in 1970 under its present name.

Miyajima (宮島) may refer to:

Chikubu Island

Chikubu is a small island in the northern part of Biwa Lake of Japan. It is a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty and Historic Site.

Toyokuni Shrine, alternately read Hōkoku Shrine (Hōkoku-jinja), refers to a number of Shinto shrines in Japan dedicated to kampaku and ruler of Japan Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The two names are different readings of the same kanji and are used interchangeably for some shrines.

Toyokuni Shrine (Kanazawa)

Toyokuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine located on Mount Utatsu in Higashi-Mikage-machi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. Under the shrine ranking system, it was listed as a village shrine. Its annual festival day is May 2.

Akihasan Hongū Akiha Jinja

The Akihasan Hongū Akiha Jinja (秋葉山本宮秋葉神社) is a Shinto shrine in Tenryū-ku, Hamamatsu. The shrine is located near the summit of Mount Akiha, on the southern slopes of the Akaishi Mountains. It is the head shrine of the 800 Akiha shrines around the country.

Japanese Buddhist architecture

Japanese Buddhist architecture is the architecture of Buddhist temples in Japan, consisting of locally developed variants of architectural styles born in China. After Buddhism arrived the continent via Three Kingdoms of Korea in the 6th century, an effort was initially made to reproduce original buildings as faithfully as possible, but gradually local versions of continental styles were developed both to meet Japanese tastes and to solve problems posed by local weather, which is more rainy and humid than in China. The first Buddhist sects were Nara's six Nanto Rokushū, followed during the Heian period by Kyoto's Shingon and Tendai. Later, during the Kamakura period, in Kamakura were born the Jōdo and the native Japanese sect Nichiren-shū. At roughly the same time Zen Buddhism arrived from China, strongly influencing all other sects in many ways, including architecture. The social composition of Buddhism's followers also changed radically with time. In the beginning it was the elite's religion, but slowly it spread from the noble to warriors, merchants and finally to the population at large. On the technical side, new woodworking tools like the framed pit saw and the plane allowed new architectonic solutions.

Pagodas in Japan are called , sometimes buttō or tōba and historically derive from the Chinese pagoda, itself an interpretation of the Indian stupa. Like the stupa, pagodas were originally used as reliquaries but in many cases they ended up losing this function. Pagodas are quintessentially Buddhist and an important component of Japanese Buddhist temple compounds but, because until the Kami and Buddhas Separation Act of 1868, a Shinto shrine was normally also a Buddhist temple and vice versa, they are not rare at shrines either. The famous Itsukushima Shrine, for example, has one.


The Hogon-ji Temple is located on the sacred Chikubu Island in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. It is part of a temple complex on the revered island. It is a Buddhist temple dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten. Also, it is said to have first been built in 724 CE under the order of Emperor Shōmu. The temple has been rebuilt a few times over the years, with a major rebuilding around 1602 CE by the Japanese court officials Toyotomi Hideyori and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The temple looks to be of Amida style architecture. The temple's gate is originally from the Toyokuni Shrine in Kyoto, but was moved to Chikubu Island during the renovations in 1602. The artwork on the temple's gate has features reminiscent of the Momoyama Period.

The Three Great Shrines of Benzaiten (日本三大弁天) are a group of Japanese shrines dedicated to the worship of the goddess Benzaiten. During the Meiji Era's separation of Shinto and Buddhism the veneration of the Buddhist water-goddess Benzaiten was replaced by the veneration of the Munakata sanjojin, the three Shinto goddesses of the sea. The official veneration of Benzaiten was moved to separate Buddhist temples. They are traditionally enumerated as follows:


  1. Miyajama
  2. 1 2 Itsukushima Shinto Shrine UNESCO
  3. Toyokuni Shrine (Senjokaku) / Goju-no-to
  4. 1 2 Daiganji Kikyozan Hokoin (Buddhist temple)
  5. Miyajama Cherry Blossoms and Fall Foliage
  6. 宮島自然散策マップ [Miyajima Nature Walk Map](PDF) (in Japanese). Miyajima Tourist Association&Gimmick. 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2020. 宮島と宮島口を約10分で結びます。(Miyajima and Miyajimaguchi are about 10 minutes apart.)
  7. "Momiji Manju: A Snack Worthy of Miyajima". All About Japan. All About Japan. 22 May 2016. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  8. "弥山(みせん)とは [About Misen]". コトバンク (in Japanese). The Asahi Shimbun Company. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  9. "About Miyajima". Visit Hiroshima. Hiroshima International Tourism Association. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  10. "Other Shrines - Sightseeing Spots". Miyajima Tourist Association. Miyajima Tourist Association. 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  11. Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric (2005). "Itsukushima-jinja" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 407.
  12. Catherine Ludvik (2001), From Sarasvati to Benzaiten, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Toronto, National Library of Canada; PDF Download
  13. Itsukushima Benzaiten Festival
  14. Miyajima Misen Daiso-In Temple, Official Publication,
  15. Quiet charms of Miyajima island, Neena Mittal, The Straits Times, FEB 14, 2016

Three Views of Japan
Amanohashidate Matsushima Itsukushima
Amanohashidate view from Kasamatsu Park01s3s4410.jpg Matsushima miyagi z.JPG Itsukushima torii distance.jpg
Ferries and boats for Miyajima (Itsukushima Shrine)
JR Miyajima Ferry Miyajima Matsudai Kisen First Beach Aqua Net Hiroshima