Itsukushima Island, also known as Miyajima, is considered one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. Although there are many things to do and see on the island, the main structures that visitors flock to see are Itsukushima Shrine and the Otorii gate.
Known as “The Floating Shrine”, Itsukushima Shrine greets visitors arriving by ferry with a view of its graceful lines and bold vermilion form which seem to float above the water in the bay. If you have ever been to the “Japan” section of a bookstore or postcard rack, then you will most certainly seen representations of this famous site.
In fact, Otorii gate stands in the bay, so if the tide is low visitors can walk out and touch it, but when the tide is high the gate appears to rise from the sea.
Many parts of the shrine are National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. However, you do not have to be a history buff to appreciate its beauty and significance. There is actually another shrine near Itsukushima Shrine called Toyokuni Shrine, which is also referred to as Senjokaku (Thousand Tatami Mat Hall) due to its massive size. Due to their close proximity, it is easy to confuse them.
Both shrine complexes have obvious Buddhist influences, and the presence of both a 5-tiered and a 2-tiered pagoda in the vicinity speak to this.
Itsukushima is well known for its fresh oysters, and momiji manju, which is a small maple leaf-shaped cake-like snack filled with sweet bean paste, custard, chocolate cream, or a variety of other fillings. Souvenir shops and small cafes and restaurants are plentiful and are a fun and relaxing way to spend a few hours.
Wildlife is readily visible on the island and includes deer, which are quite tame and will approach visitors in search of treats. Monkeys and raccoon-dogs (tanuki) are other animals that you may encounter.
Itsukushima Island is a quintessentially Japanese destination and is a must-see for visitors to West Japan.
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