Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine

This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built around 593, the year Empress Suiko ascended the throne.  The shrine is built on stilts over the water and is known worldwide for its iconic torii gate that appears as if it is floating on the water during high tide. The island was originally named Itsukushima but is more commonly known by the name Miyajima, Japan which literally means “shrine island”.

The shrine has been destroyed several times throughout the centuries. The present building having been constructed during the 16th century.  The current structures are modeled after the 12th-century structures. The design was paid for by a warlord Taira no Kiyomori. He devoted the shrine to the worship of the three daughters of the Shinto deity of the seas and storms to whom he owed thanks for his success in life. Kiyomori was the first samurai to be given the role of the Head of the Imperial government (Daijo-Daijin).

Itsukushima Shrine
Kiyomori wanted the shrine to appear like it was floating on top of the water and be separate from the island that he considered being sacred. Commoners were made to pilot their boats through the torii gate before approaching the shrine.

Maintaining the purity of the shrine is so incredibly important that since 1878, no one has died or given birth near it. To this day, pregnant women are supposed to stay inland as their day of delivery approaches. Terminally ill and very elderly individuals are also not allowed to come near the shrine. Burials and hospitals are strictly forbidden on the island.
Miyajima deer

Miyajima deer

Miyajima deer

Miyajima deer have inhabited this island for over 6,000 years and have no fear of humans. As you step off the ferry and onto the island, you will likely be met by the friendly and incredibly tame deer. They tend to wait to be fed and pet by the tourists. I was happy to oblige.



Goju-no-To is the five-story pagoda that can be seen next to the shrine. This was built by Taira-no-Masakado in 1407 and it is dedicated to Benzaiten, the goddess of eloquence, music, and wealth.


If you have the time to stick around after dark, climb aboard a cruise boat for a lovely night cruise to see the shrine and gate lit up.

Helpful Information

Best Time to Visit: This site is best to see during high tide when the buildings are reflecting off the water and the red torii appear to rise out of the sea. I traveled by ferry out to the island in the morning and was able to walk on the ocean floor out to the torii. It was incredible! I recommend spending the day wandering around the property or stay at one of the ryokans located on the island.

Important Information



Kristal Ham

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