View across water towards Miyajima's red floating torii gate

Miyajima

On an island in Hiroshima Bay, just a few minutes’ ferry ride from the city, you can cross the threshold between the mortal world and the land of the gods.

We’re not being hyperbolic — that’s what Miyajima’s famous “floating” torii gate was built to symbolize: the gateway to a sacred space. And it’s not hard to understand why this island is considered the home of the gods. In fact, it’s one of our favorite destinations in the whole of Japan.

Part of why we love it is its proximity to Hiroshima. It’s like a microcosm of Japan: big city, incredible shrine, beautiful forested mountain and stunning sea views, all in one perfect little package. For getting a sense of Japan’s diversity in just one destination, you can’t do much better than this.

For a start, there’s its World Heritage shrine, whose vermilion-pillared halls seem to float on the water as they look out across one of the country’s “three best views” (Japan does love a ranked list). Then there’s Mount Misen, with its thick forests scattered with hidden temples and ryokan inns. There’s its wood-paneled town full of souvenir shops and guesthouses, and the cheeky local deer, who’ll eat your ferry ticket as soon as look at you. And that’s before we even get to the food: incredible oysters that’ll live on in your memory long after you’ve paid the bill.

Miyajima is deservedly popular, so dodge the daytime crowds and spend the night. You’ll get to see the floating gate lit up against the night sky, and have the island virtually to yourself.

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