The Three Most Scenic Spots of Japan—Miyajima/ Around Itsukushima Shrine
In our last installment, we talked about the fundamentals for a trip to Itsukushima Shrine, so today we’ll take a look at what’s in the Itsukushima Shrine area. Given that most visitors satisfy themselves with just the shrine itself, a surprising number don’t check out what’s around. We’ll introduce the places that you can make it to without difficulty if you have a whole day, so think of it as a touring course of Miyajima that forms a full set together with a visit to Itsukushima Shrine.
1. Toyokuni Shrine (Senjōkaku)
The largest structure on the island, Toyokuni Shrine was built at the request of Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1587 so that he could come to read the sutras once every month. Large enough to fit 857 tatami mats (over 1,500 square meters), it is also known as Senjōkaku, the Hall of a Thousand Mats. Owing to the sudden death of Hideyoshi, there were portions of the roof that weren’t covered, and these portions remain incomplete to this day. Also, you can find senryū (a poem type similar to haiku) and the names of famous Kabuki actors carved into the pillars here. Make sure that you don’t miss out on these two richly-historical details when you come.
2. Five-Story Pagoda
Constructed next to Senjōkaku, this five-story pagoda stands 27.6 m tall. Though you can’t enter it, this is a popular spot to take a commemorative photo with the pagoda in the background.
3. Daiganji Temple
Located right near the exit of Itsukushima Shrine, Daiganji Temple hosts one of Japan’s three grand statues of Benzaiten, a Japanese Buddhist goddess. The nine-trunked pine that stands in the temple courtyard garden is also not to be missed. A rare formation of nine “trees” sprouting from one set of roots, it is said that the tree was planted by the hands of Prince Itō Hirobumi, first prime minster of Japan.
There’s also a Buddha here that famed for its powers, such as healing the afflicted parts of whoever rubs it. Why not give it a rub yourself?
4. Daishōin Temple
http://awl-web.com/wp/ Henjōkutsu Grotto（遍照窟）
Daishōin is the oldest temple in Miyajima founded in 806, when Kūkai came to Miyajima. Enshrined here is a fierce “oni” deity (one of the three great gongen), a rare sight anywhere in Japan. Another deity worshipped here is Ichigan Taishi, famous as a god who can grant worshippers just one wish. This is part of the deity’s name, as well: “ichigan” means “one wish.” As a locale where a great number of beneficial Buddhas and Jizō are enshrined, Daishōin is definitely worth the visit. There are too many highlights to list here.
Regional Specialties and Recommended Shops
When talking about Miyajima, the foods that come to mind are Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (savory pancake), oysters, and conger eel on rice. Sure, this selection is hardly limited to just Miyajima, but there’s something special about the flavor of a dish enjoyed in its home area, so we hope you’ll try them out here.
Conger eel on rice
What makes Hiroshima okonomiyaki special is how much meat and vegetables it uses. Noodles are added in, as well, so the dish feels a lot more filling than the Kansai version. Map of recommended shops: Momo-chan, Kishibe, Kurawanka
We hope you’ll take what we’ve introduced today, combine it with the previous article about Itsukushima Shrine and put together a truly fabulous trip to Miyajima.
Tip: Getting to Miyajima is as easy as riding one of the ferries, and our recommendation is the JR Miyajima ferry. This is because the ferry, which departs the Miyajimaguchi Pier, takes the long route and shows you how Itsukushima Shrine’s massive torii looks from the water.