Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine is famous for its unique vermilion-lacquered structure which looks as if it were floating on the sea. They say that the shrine was built in the place a little separate from the land since the ancient people worshipped Miyajima island itself as the deity.
The main shrine is dedicated to the three Munakata female deities that appear in Japanese Mythology. They had been worshipped as the deities of the sea among the ancient Japanese including Taira no Kiyomori, the leader in the 12th century who established the first military government in the history of Japan.
Itukushima Shrine has been counted as one of the 3 most scenic spots in Japan, along with Matsushima and Amanohashidate, and was registered as the World Cultural Heritage Site in 1996.
Pledge of Amaterasu and Susanoo (Japanese Myth)
“Izanagi”, the father deity pleased with the birth of “Amaterasu” and “Susanoo”, appointed “Amaterasu” to the deity of the sun and “Susanoo” to the deity who rule the earth and the ocean. However, “Susanoo” did not stop crying insisting on going to the world of the dead to meet his mother, and “Izanagi” decided to cast him out at last.
“Susanoo” went up to the heaven to say goodbye to his sister “Amaterasu”, but she met him with a bow and arrow in her hands since she heard the earth rumbling and thought that he had come to attack the heaven.
He suggested that they made a pledge together and gave birth to the deities to dispel her doubt. First, she received his sword and gave birth to the 3 female deities known as the three Munakata female deities. On the other hand, 5 male deities were born when he was given a magadama (comma-shaped bead) she was wearing. He said that his children were the female deities of graceful nature because his heart was guiltless, and she accepted his visit. However, he showed violent behavior after that, the story continues to the famous “heavenly rock cave” mythology.
As the ferry or the boat approaches to Miyajima island, the Torii Gate in the sea and the main shrine appears in front of you. Its traditional architecture is called Shinden style, and it was built in the place a little separate from the land since the ancient people worshipped Miyajima island itself as the deity. The vermilion-lacquered shrine “floating” on the sea is very unique among Japanese Shinto shrines.
When you go through the entrance and walk to the corridor with vermilion-lacquered pillars, you see slight spaces between the floorboards which have been created to protect the architecture against tidal waves. After you go down the corridor and see the enclosure square surrounded with the corridor, which is called “Masugata“, you reach the main shrine dedicated to “Munakata three female deities” appearing in Japanese mythology. The high stage in front of the main shrine is called “Taka-Butai“, where the ancient court dance “Bugaku” is held. Many tourists take photos in front of “Taka-Butai” and then visit the worship hall in the main shrine.
Misen is the mountain which stands behind Itsukushima Shrine. I would like to recommend that you climb the mountain after visiting the shrine, and it must be also great for you to enjoy walking in Momijidani Park at the foot of the mountain. There are not only some hiking trails leading up the mountain but also “Miyajima Ropeway” connecting Momijidani station and Shishiiwa. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from Shishiiwa station to the top.
Although you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea at Shishiiwa observatory just near the ropeway station, you should climb up to the top if you have enough time and strength to spare. Mt. Misen has been worshipped since ancient times, virgin forest remains on its slope. In addition, there are also some tourist spots on the way such as the sacred fire at Reikado Hall, which has been burning for 1,200 years and counted as one of the seven wonders of Misen, the statues of Jizo (the most popular Buddha in Japan) made from the ashes of the sacred fire, and so on. The top of the mountain offers you both a unique landscape with strangely shaped giant rocks and a wonderful panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea dotted with hundreds of islands.
Omote-Sando Shopping Street, Machiya Street
You will find Omote-Sando shopping street easily on the way to Itsukushima Shrine after leaving the Miyajima ferry terminal. There are many restaurants and souvenir shops along the street which is always crowded with the tourists. Many of them enjoy the local foods of Miyajima such as “Anago Meshi” (broiled conger eel on top of rice) and “Momiji Manju” (a maple shaped cake with flavor such as red bean paste, chocolate, and so on). On the other hand, Machiya Street located behind Omote-Sando shopping street is a quiet street which preserves the traditional atmosphere. There are some cafes and Japanese-style hotels along the street.
Many tourists take a JR train from Hiroshima station to Miyajima-guchi (about 30 minutes), and then take a ferry to Miyajima island. You can also get to Miyajima-guchi by streetcar (Hiroshima Electric Railway) after visiting A-Bomb Dome (about 50 minutes). Another option is to take a high-speed boat which connects between A-Bomb Dome and Miyajima island directly (about 45 minutes).
I have summarized an example of travel route starting from Hiroshima station by public transportation, which enables you to go to Miyajima island after visiting A-Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
|1||Hiroshima -> Genbaku Dome-mae (Hiroshima Electric Railway)||A-Bomb Dome
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
|2||Hiroshima -> Miyajima-guchi (JR)
Miyajima-guchi -> Miyajima -> Miyajima-guchi (Ferry)
Miyajima-guchi -> Hiroshima (JR)
|Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
|3||Hiroshima -> Next|