Itsukushima Shrine is one of the most famous iconic sights in Japan. You will be definitely familiar with a dramatic red Torii Gate that is standing over the sea of the Miyajima island, whenever you googled images of Japan. This Torii gate sometimes appears as floating and visitors can walk through it when low tide occurs. This is the welcoming symbol to the pilgrims to the Shrine and consider it is to keep evil spirits away from the Shrine. This is one of the reasons they used red color on gates. At present this is the most famous photographed example of most famous and amateur photographers.
Without a doubt, Itsukushima Shrine is a graceful and stunning sacred place in Japan. This Shrine is located in a small inlet of Miyajima Island and the Shrine complex contains 56 wooden buildings including a prayer hall, main hall, and Noh theatre stage which all are built on pillars and connected to each other by boardwalks. This Shrine complex made using camphor wood from old trees to resist the degrading from seawater. Because of its traditional architecture and the technical merit they have used to build, Itsukushima Shrine is an official treasure of Japan and has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996. Itsukushima Shrine also is known as Miyajima which literally means the island of worship, and it has been used as a worship place for centuries. First, this Shrine was dedicated to three daughters of the Shinto storm god known as Susanoo. They are considered as appealed deities of sea travels and the success of businesses. During the Kamakura period (1185-1333CE) the Shrine also started to worship to Benzaithe known as one of seven gods of fortune. Due to the worshiping of all these gods in the same place, the Shrine has given its name Itsukushima. To maintain the everlasting holy spiritual in this place there is not allowed to take place births, deaths, or burials on or near this island.
Construction History of Itsukushima Shrine
The particular architectural style that was used to build the Shrine is called Shinden Zukuri and first built in 593A.D, it was further enlarged to current dimensions by the warlord Tira on Kiyomori from 1168. The Torii gate measure 16m in height and arched bridge were restored in the late sixteenth century by the Mohari family. There are several reasons why the warlord Tira on Kiyomori decided to build this shrine on pillars. First, of them, he might think it would be impure if worshipper set their foot on this island with their presence to the Shrine. Another theory is he might endeavor to build Shrine as a Mythical Dragon Palace because Shrine is dedicated to the goddess of the sea.
Visitors cannot enter the Shrine after the sunset. After the sunset, the Shrine and O-Torii gate are illuminated with light from hundreds of burning lights over the sea. For visitors who would like to catch both views at both high tide and low tide in the Shrine, at present, it is possible to stay overnight at the shrine.
There are a traditional Japanese imperial Bugaku court dance and Gagaku music on an open-air wooden stage, with the O-Torii gate and reflected beautifully on the blue sea. This festival usually held on the monthly and annual birthday of the Emperors’. You are lucky if you can see the dance at the Shrine.
The autumn is the best season to visit Miyajima because the island is beautifully decorated with its jewel color leaves of maple trees. It is also famous for cherry blossom trees that give an amazing view behind the Shrine. On this island, you can also visit uniquely shaped rocks in the virgin forest Mt.Misen and to Daisho-in temple. When you are going to Miyajima Island make sure to taste an oyster dish. This place is well known for its oysters. They serve oysters in various forms at many restaurants in the shopping area of Miyajima Island.
Address: 1-1 Miyajima-cho, Hatsukaichi City, 739-0588
How to get to Itsukushima Shrine?
You can take the JR Sanyo Line ( from Hiroshima railway station to Miyajimaguchi Station (27 min). From there you have to transfer to take a ferry. Then take a ferry from Miyajimaguchi to Miyajima Island (10 min).
Admission Fees: 300yen (For combined entry with Treasure Hall its 500yen)
Opening Hours: Usually the Shrine is open from 6.30 am to 6.00 pm, but it is depend on the season.
4. Galle Fort