Itsukushima Shrine was built in 593, during the reign of Empress Suiko. Several hundred years later in 1168, the shogun of the Aki Province, Taira no Kiyomori, reconstructed the shrine pavilion and incorporated elements of the Heian era palatial architecture into the design that remains today. This stunning design has earned Itsukushima Shrine a place as one of Japan’s three most scenic spots, alongside Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and Amanohashidate in Kyoto Prefecture. With its exquisite vivid red exterior and mystical scenery that blends harmoniously into the surrounding nature, this relatively rare-in-the-world structure built on the sea was recognized for its beauty and rarity, and registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1996.
Many of the structures comprising Itsukushima Shrine are designated as a National Treasure and Important Cultural Property. The first eye-catching structure is the 16-meters tall and 24-meters wide gigantic O-Torii shrine gate. One of the charms of this magical-looking gate soaring high above the sea is how its appearance changes as the tide ebbs and flows. You can only see the O-Torii shrine gate up close when it is low tide. So if you want to walk under the gate and offer your prayers, make sure to plan your visit there during low tide time. Miyajima is a short 10-minute ferry ride from Miyajima-guchi pier, on the Honshu main island side. Itsukushima Shrine as seen from the seaside is also a beautiful backdrop for a photo, so be sure to take a picture while approaching it on the ferry. Once you get off the ferry at Miyajima Sanbashi pier, you’ll enter the Omotesando Arcade leading up to Itsukushima Shrine. This main street has many stores and restaurants, where you can grab something to eat and get some souvenirs while on your way to the shrine. Omotesando Arcade is bustling with tourists sampling Hiroshima’s delicacies, and browsing local craftwork and other items sold at the many stores lining the street.