The UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine dates back to the sixth century, when the island’s Mount Misen was worshipped as sacred. The present buildings were constructed in the 12th century, in a style used at the time for noble residences. It’s suspended above the water, and the various buildings—including a noh theater stage, a prayer hall, and the main hall—are connected by boardwalks over the water. The main shrine building is one of the largest shrines in Japan.
While it’s possible to visit the shrine and the island independently, many tours are available from Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Osaka. Tours that run from further afield are often two days, and include a visit to the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. Tours for active travelers include kayaking around Itsukushima Island and hiking.
Guided tours arrange your land and ferry transport. Independent travelers can take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi, which takes about 25 minutes. The ferry terminal is a short walk away, and the ferry journey takes about 10 minutes. Alternatively, boats leave directly from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park; this is a much more expensive option, and not considerably faster.
Itsukushima Shrine is open every day of the year, from 6:30am until about sunset—the closing times depend on the season. The temple and views of the torii are most attractive when the tide is high; at other times, the torii sits in mud, which is rather less photogenic. If you arrive from Hiroshima on a day trip and the tide level is not favorable, enjoy some other activities on the island for a few hours and come back later for better views.
There’s more to Miyajima than the Itsukushima Shrine. If you want to spend more time on the island, hike or take the cable car up the island’s highest peak, Mount Misen. On clear days there are amazing views of the Seto Inland Sea, between Japan’s main islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu.