Itsukushima Shrine, which is floating in the Seto Inland Sea, is beautifully registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, exuding the spirit of the Heian period.

Also known as ”Akino Miyajima", it's renowned for its beauty, even recognized as one of Japan's Three Views.

In this article, we'll introduce the history, charm, enshrined deities, and nearby tourist spots of Itsukushima Shrine♪

※The contents of this article are as of May 2023.
The published contents are subject to change, so please contact each facility in advance for official information.

What is Itsukushima Shrine?

Itsukushima Shrine is a famous shrine that everyone has heard of, but what exactly is it?

First, let's review some core information.

S hrine Standing on the Sea

Itsukushima Shrine is located on the sea in Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture, serving as the head shrine of the approximately 500 Itsukushima Shrines nationwide.

The floorboards of the shrine's floating corridor are designed with slight gaps to mitigate the pressure of the seawater.

Additionally, the supporting pillars of the floor are designed for easy part replacement and repair in case of damage.

The ancient Japanese wisdom that crafted such a beautiful shrine, harmonizing with nature through various ingenious techniques, deserves our respect.

Moreover, Itsukushima Island (commonly known as "Miyajima"), where the shrine stands, is one of Japan's representative scenic spots, counted among the Three Views of Japan along with Matsushima in Miyagi and Amanohashidate in Kyoto.

T he Treasury of National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties

The charm of Itsukushima Shrine is not only its profound history and beauty but also the abundance of invaluable national treasures and important cultural properties that Japan prides itself on.

Six buildings are designated as national treasures.

Additionally, eleven buildings and three structures, such as the Main Halls of subsidiary shrines like the O-moto Shrine, Daikoku Shrine, and the Ten Shrine, along with structures like the Noh stage, the Treasure House called Houzou, the Five-story Pagoda, and the Great Torii Gate, are designated as important cultural properties.

One could say that Itsukushima Shrine as a whole resembles a museum dedicated to conveying Japan's history and culture.

D esignated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Itsukushima Shrine was registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1996.

Among the sites and structures designated as World Cultural Heritage Sites in Japan, such as Horyu-ji Temple in Nara and Himeji Castle in Hyogo, there are fewer than 20, making them rare treasures.

Therefore, Itsukushima Shrine is not only valuable to Japan but also to the world as a precious heritage of humanity.

T he Enshrined Deities

The deities enshrined at Itsukushima Shrine are the Munakata Three Goddesses, also known as Ichikishimahime-no-mikoto, Tagorihime-no-mikoto, and Tagitsuhime-no-mikoto.

These three sisters are revered for their beauty, particularly Ichikishimahime-no-mikoto, who is said to be exceptionally stunning and skilled in the arts.

The Munakata Three Goddesses are worshipped as deities of the sea and transportation. Ichikishimahime-no-mikoto sometimes equated with Benzaiten, is also revered as a deity of wealth.

Therefore, the blessings of Itsukushima Shrine, dedicated to the Munakata Three Goddesses, encompass a wide range of benefits, including protection from disasters at sea and road safety, improvement in financial and artistic abilities, academic success, and enhancement of luck in competitions.

History of Itsukushima Shrine

Let's unravel the origins of Itsukushima Shrine, which has been beloved by many people since ancient times.

E stablished in 593, the First Year of Suiko Era

The history of Itsukushima Shrine dates back to the early Asuka period.

Miyajima, covered with deep mountains and primeval forests, was considered a place imbued with spiritual energy and had been an object of nature worship since ancient times.

On such land, Itsukushima Shrine was established in the first year of the Suiko era (593 AD) by Saeki Kuramoto, a powerful clan leader from Aki Province.

According to legend, a divine crow appeared to Saeki Kuramoto, expressing the desire of the gods to dwell on Itsukushima Island. Upon receiving permission from the imperial court, Saeki Kuramoto built Itsukushima Shrine.

Even after Saeki Kuramoto became the first chief priest, the position of chief priest at Itsukushima Shrine has been held by successive generations of the Saeki family, although there have been periods when it was held by the Fujiwara clan. Currently, it remains under the stewardship of the Saeki family.

T he Symbol of the Prosperity of the Heike Clan

The history of Itsukushima Shrine and the Heike are deeply intertwined.

In the second year of the Kyūan era (1146) during the Heian period, Taira no Kiyomori was appointed as the governor of Aki Province, gaining control over trade rights in the Seto Inland Sea and reaping immense profits.

Legend has it that during this time, Kiyomori had a dream in which he was told that by honoring Itsukushima Shrine, he would achieve even greater success.

As a result, he strengthened his devotion to Itsukushima Shrine.

Through conflicts like the Hōgen Rebellion in the first year of Hōgen (1156) and the Heiji Rebellion in the first year of Heiji (1159), the Taira clan expanded its influence, culminating in Kiyomori's elevation to the highest position in the imperial court as the first non-aristocrat to hold the title of Daijō-daijin (Chancellor of the Realm) in the second year of Nin'an (1167).

In the third year of Nin'an (1168), Kiyomori constructed the Shinden-zukuri-style main hall at Itsukushima Shrine, a style typically reserved for aristocratic residences at the time.

Additionally, he relocated the cultural traditions of court music and dance from Osaka's Shitennō-ji Temple.

Therefore, the present-day Itsukushima Shrine stands as a testament to the peak of Heike prosperity during Kiyomori's era.

As Kiyomori's status rose, not only the Taira clan but also many imperial family members and aristocrats visited Itsukushima Shrine for pilgrimage.

R egistered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

In December of 1996, Itsukushima Shrine was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The floating Shinden-zukuri-style main hall against the backdrop of Mount Misen, covered with primeval forests, and the beauty of its landscape, including the shrine itself, were recognized and led to its inscription as a World Heritage Site.

Additionally, as a Shinto facility representing Japan's unique religious tradition, Itsukushima Shrine is deemed suitable for inclusion as a World Heritage Site, allowing visitors to trace Japan's culture and history.

Legends and Anecdotes surrounding Itsukushima

T he 'Eternal Flame' of Reikado, Burning for 1200 years

At the base of Mount Misen, the sacred mountain towering behind Itsukushima Shrine, lies the Reikado Hall, which holds the legend of the 'Eternal flame.'

Reikado is the place where Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and later honored with the title of Kobo Daishi by the imperial court, conducted his ascetic training upon returning from China in the first year of the Daidō era (806).

The fire that Kukai kindled during his training still burns without extinguishing to this day.

This flame, known as the 'eternal flame,' has been continuously preserved and has become a symbol of peace, serving as the source for the Flame of Peace at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the ignition source for the blast furnaces at the Yahata Steel Works.

Inside the Reikado Hall, there is a hearth where the 'eternal flame' has been burning for 1200 years.

Hanging over the hearth is a large iron kettle, from which visitors can enjoy tea boiled with the eternal flame.

This tea is believed to have medicinal properties and bring happiness, so it's definitely something to try when visiting the Reikado Hall.

Moreover, the eternal flame is said to offer another romantic blessing: symbolizing an everlasting passion.

As a result, the Reikado Hall is also believed to have a blessing for matchmaking, making it a popular spot for lovers ♪

K anman-iwa

Kanman-iwa is a mysterious giant rock located near the Mount Misen Observatory.

Despite being at an elevation of 500 meters, this rock has a small hole on its side from which saltwater springs forth.

Moreover, the timing of the saltwater's emergence coincides with the ebb and flow of the tides, overflowing during high tide and drying up during low tide.

The reason for saltwater emerging from such a high elevation and its connection to the ebb and flow of the tides remains scientifically unexplained.

It's a unique mystery of Itsukushima, long revered as an object of nature worship.

The Highlights of Itsukushima Shrine

In addition to the stunning Shinden-zukuri architecture, to the entire island being a power spot and tourist destination, Itsukushima Shrine offers a wealth of attractions.

Let's introduce the highlights of Itsukushima that you must see when you visit! ♪

' O-torii Gate' Standing in the Ocean

The iconic O-torii Gate, symbolizing Itsukushima Shrine, stands majestically in the sea, about 200 meters offshore from the shrine's precincts.

With a height of approximately 16 meters and a weight of 60 tons, this colossal structure is sure to captivate anyone who lays eyes on it!

The current O-torii Gate was constructed in 1875 (the 8th year of the Meiji era), making it the 8th iteration since its initial establishment by Taira no Kiyomori.

During high tide, visitors can approach it by boat, while during low tide, it's possible to walk out to it.

Be sure to get up close and personal with Itsukushima Shrine's symbol, the magnificent O-torii Gate!

T he floating on-water Shrine

The enchanting Shinden (Shrine on the water), built by Taira no Kiyomori, floats gracefully on the sea.

At its center lie the Main Shrine, Haiden, and Haraiden, while to the east, one can find the Ten Shrine and the Daikoku Shrine, and to the west, the Maroudo Shrine.

Itsukushima was believed to be inhabited by gods, hence it was considered inappropriate to build shrines on land, thus this kind of reverent gesture was prompted.

T he fantastical vermillion 'Corridor' (廻廊)

It's a covered corridor connecting the Main Shrine, featuring takabutai and hirabutai (the elevated and flat stages) that extend over the sea, to the Maroudo Shrine on the east coast and the Daikoku Shrine and Noh stage on the west coast.

The corridor is about 4 meters wide and stretches nearly 260 meters when combined from east to west.

Walking along the corridor, one can enjoy a fantastical space, as if stepping into a historical scroll, with the beautiful water surface visible through vermilion-painted structures.

O ne of Japan's Three Famous Stages, the National Treasure 'Takabutai'

Located on the portion protruding into the sea in front of the Haraiden hall of the Main Shrine, it stands one step higher than the Hirabutai and is designated as a National Treasure.

On this stage, adorned with beautiful vermilion railings, ritual dances are performed as offerings to the gods.

Itsukushima Shrine's Takabutai is counted as one of Japan's Three Famous Stages, along with the Ishibutai of Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine in Osaka and Shitenno-ji Temple.

T he Important Cultural Property, 'Noh Stage'

Located at the tip of the west corridor, it is the only Noh stage in Japan that stands above the sea and is designated as an Important Cultural Property by the government.

Constructed in the early Edo period in the 10th year of the Keicho era (in 1605) by Masanori Fukushima, the lord of Hiroshima Domain, it underwent renovations in the 8th year of the Enpō era (1680) by Tsunanaga Asano.

Although it collapsed due to a typhoon in 1991 (the 3rd year of Heisei), it was successfully restored in 1994.

T he 'Goshuin' of Itsukushima Shrine

Recently, collecting 'Goshuin' (stamps) has become popular, and at Itsukushima Shrine, you can receive them at the reception area in front of the main hall.

There is only one type of Goshuin available, and the fee is 300 yen.

Itsukushima Shrine also offers its original Goshuincho (stamp book) with changing designs according to the season, available for purchase at 1,000 yen each.

Additionally, as Itsukushima Shrine is one of the shrines on the 'Tale of the Heike Pilgrimage,' upon presenting a dedicated pilgrimage stamp book, you can receive a special Goshuin specifically for the Tale of the Heike pilgrimage (平家物語めぐり).

The 'Tale of the Heike Pilgrimage' is an event where participants visit six temples and shrines associated with the Tale of the Heike to trace historical footprints.

At each of the six temples and shrines, you can receive an original Goshuin stamp, with Itsukushima Shrine being the fourth in the pilgrimage.

Similarly, Daishoin Temple, also located in Miyajima, is the fifth temple on the pilgrimage, so it's recommended to visit both.

Goshuin serves as a memorial of your pilgrimage, not merely leisure stamps, so please observe proper etiquette after your visit.

※Please note that fees and details may change. For more information, please check the official website.

A nnual Events at Itsukushima Shrine

Bugaku (舞楽)

Bugaku refers to the oldest form of musical art originating from India.

It is said to have reached Japan through China, known as the "Samai," and via the Korean Peninsula, known as "Umai"

At Itsukushima Shrine, both Samai and Umai are performed.

These performances take place in January, April, May, July, October, and December.

Momote Matsuri (百手祭)

At Itsukushima Shrine, a sub-shrine and Important Cultural Property, the annual festival is held at the O-moto Shrine on January 20th, called Momote Matsuri.

In this event similar to the character for 'oni' (demon), Shinto priests shoot arrows at targets resembling demons.

The act of shooting demons symbolically purifies the evil thoughts lurking in people's hearts and washing away conflicts.

Kangensai (管絃祭)

The Kangensai (Kanguen Festival), held on June 17th of the lunar calendar while aboard ships, is one of Japan's three major boat festivals, alongside Osaka's Tenjin Festival and Horae Enya in Shimane.

The Kangensai at Itsukushima Shrine is said to have been initiated by Taira no Kiyomori and involves offering music performances on boats, originally a noble pastime, to the shrine's deity.

Since it follows the lunar calendar, the festival date varies each year, so it's advisable to check the schedule in advance!

Tamatorisai (玉取祭)

Taking place two weeks after the Kangensai, Tamatorisai involves men fiercely competing to seize a large jewel known as the 'Hoju,' made of a giant camphor tree.

The Hoju is believed to grant wishes, and it's said that the winner who brings the Hoju to the designated place will be promised future fortune and luck.

You can witness the robust men contending in the waters near the O-Torii!

Chinkasai (鎮火祭)

Chinkasai (Chinka Festival) takes place every New Year's Eve.

The sacred flame purified at Itsukushima Shrine is used to light hundreds of torches, totaling up to a thousand, which are paraded around the beach of Itsukushima while praying for a safe and prosperous new year.

It's a traditional fire festival unique to the island of gods.

Recommended Sightseeing Spots around Itsukushima Shrine

The allure of Itsukushima Shrine isn't limited to the shrine alone.

Let's also check out some recommended sightseeing spots in the vicinity!

M iyajima Public Aquarium “Miyaji Marine”

Located about a 5-minute walk west from the exit of Itsukushima Shrine, this aquarium sits along the coast.

Featuring over 350 species of marine creatures, with a focus on those found in the Seto Inland Sea, it offers a diverse display.

While Miyajima is renowned for its oyster production, Miyajima Marine Park boasts dedicated tanks showcasing the underwater habitat of oysters, suspended from rafts.

Additionally, there's the charming sight of penguins seemingly swimming in mid-air in the Penguin Pool, and the chance to encounter the Finless porpoise, a rare species known to inhabit the Seto Inland Sea. There are various adorable species in this aquarium and they are waiting for you♡

Why not take a break from shrine visits and enjoy the soothing presence of these animals?

※For details on opening hours and closing days, please refer to the official website.

T oyokuni Shrine

Toyokuni Shrine is located on a hill opposite the entrance to Itsukushima Shrine, offering a view overlooking Itsukushima Shrine.

The shrine is known for its enormous hall, called the 'Senjokaku' (Pavilion of 1,000 Tatami Mats), due to its size equivalent to 857 tatami mats.

It was built by the order of Hideyoshi Toyotomi but remained incomplete as he passed away before its completion.

The hall has no walls, creating a vast open space with wooden flooring.

This unique feature allows excellent ventilation and provides stunning views of Miyajima's seasonal landscapes, making it one of the country's Important Cultural Properties.

※For details on visiting hours and access, please check the official website.

M iyajima Omotesando Shopping Street

It is a covered shopping street with a retractable roof, extending about 350 meters from the Miyajima Pier, where the ferry arrives, to the stone torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine, approximately a 5-minute walk south.

This street is a spot where you can enjoy Hiroshima cuisine, such as Miyajima's famous grilled oysters, conger eel, and maple leaf-shaped sweet buns called Momiji Manju.

It also sells crafts like wooden rice paddles (shamoji) and Miyajima wood carvings.

Take a leisurely stroll and enjoy delicious treats as a souvenir of your visit to Miyajima!

Direction and Admission to Itsukushima Shrine

Although Itsukushima Shrine is located on an island in the Seto Inland Sea, how can you get there?

We will introduce the access methods and admission fees.

F rom JR and Hiroshima Electric Railway 'Miyajimaguchi Station' to the Ferry

To go to Miyajima, you first need to go to 'Miyajimaguchi Station' via JR or Hiroshima Electric Railway, and then take a ferry.

There are two types of ferries: JR West Miyajima Ferry and Miyajima Matsudai Kisen.

Both cost 180 yen and take about 10 minutes.

If you want a route that passes by the O-Torii Gate, JR West Miyajima Ferry is recommended. If you plan to take the ropeway on Miyajima, Miyajima Matsudai Kisen is a good choice.

JR 'Hiroshima Station' → JR 'Miyajimaguchi Station' → (Ferry) → Miyajima
Hiroshima Electric Railway city stops → Hiroshima Electric Railway 'Miyajimaguchi Station' → (Ferry) → Miyajima

In the case of Hiroshima Electric Railway, it takes about 70 minutes from Hiroshima Station, but you can enjoy a leisurely ride through Hiroshima city, which is an attractive feature for sightseeing.

A dmission Hours

Itsukushima Shrine is open for visits every day of the year.


The times of high and low tides occur roughly twice a day, every 12 to 13 hours.

Since these times shift slightly each day, it is advisable to check in advance.

Also, the Treasure Hall is open year-round from 8:00 to 17:00, and Senjokaku is open from 8:30 to 16:30.

A dmission Fee

The admission fee for Itsukushima Shrine is called 'Hatsuhoryo,' and the cost varies depending on the facilities you visit.

ShrineTreasure HallShrine and Treasure Hall
Adult300 yen300 yen500 yen
High School Students200 yen200 yen300 yen
Elementary/Junior High School Students100 yen100 yen150 yen

The admission fee for Senjokaku is 100 yen for adults and 50 yen for elementary and junior high school students.

※Visiting hours and fees are subject to change. Please check the official website for details.

In Conclusion

Sitting amidst the Seto Inland Sea, Itsukushima Shrine is not only a solemn and spiritual presence but also a place of stunning natural beauty.

The temple and the O-torii gate, integrated harmoniously with nature, reveal various aspects throughout the year.

Across over a millennium, its captivating power continues to enchant people, leaving them awe-inspired without fail, we highly recommend visiting here!