Itsukushima Shrine, Japan
Tucked peacefully on the coast of the Seto inland sea, the Itsukushima Shrine is one of the most tranquil and beautiful religious spots in Japan. The shrine is dedicated to Shinto, an indigenous Japanese religion, and is believed to have first been built in the 12th century. It is home to one of the truly wondrous religious monuments in the country, the great Torii gate. Believed to be the boundary between the spirit and the human worlds, the 16 metre high red gate appears to float at high-tide, as does the Shrine itself. This makes both an even more spectacular sight than before, as they stand in contrast with the emerald green forests behind and the indigo blue sea which encircles them. The vermilion red colour is said to keep away evil spirits by the Shinto faith, and the colour permeates all the multiple buildings of the Shrine. These include the prayer hall and the main hall, which are connected by boardwalks and supported by pillars above the sea. The sun setting over the Torii gate is truly one of the great sights of Japan.
Where is it?
The shrine sits on the island of Itsukushima, in the city of Hatsukaichi in the Hiroshima Prefecture in the south of Japan.
What is it?
The beautiful shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its cultural significance. It is commonly referred to as Miyajima, the “Shrine Island”, in Japanese and has been considered a holy place for centuries of Japanese history.
Best time to visit?
The best time to visit in is early April, when cherry blossoms and other trees come out and the weather is still cool and breezy. October and November also have cool temperatures, ideal for exploring as the Japanese summers are typically humid. Make sure to check the tides too, to ensure you see the Shrine and Gate at both high and low-tide.
As fantastic as the Torii gate looks from afar, make sure you visit at low-tide so you can walk out across the bay to the base of the famous structure. The gate is surprisingly high, and from up close you can see a plate that was painted by an Imperial Prince, Taruhito, as well as a painting of the sun which is believed to block the devils path into the human world.