The floating torii gate on Miyajima is a must-see if you are in Hiroshima. But the views and the things you can do around the shrine will be effected by the tide. Whether you visit at high tide or low tide, you will have very different experiences. Your expectations might be shattered if you visit at the wrong time of day. If you have certain expectations, it’s best to check the tide table and make sure you visit at the right time of day, especially if you only have one day and are not going to spend the night on the island. This post compares Miyajima at high tide and low, so you can decide what you think is the best time to visit Miyajima.
Best time to visit Miyajima: comparing high tide and low tide
Why am I writing this post? A couple years ago, my husband and I went to Hiroshima for a wedding. Since neither of us had been to Hiroshima, and it is really expensive to get there from Nagoya, we decided to stay a few days and make the most of the weekend.
Of course, first on the list was Miyajima. We went to the island one day without checking the tide schedule, and the tide was out when we were there. It was cool, but it’s not what I was expecting. I wanted to see the torii gate when the tide was in, so we came back again the next day. This may not be the most ideal way to spend a weekend in Hiroshima. We could have planned things better and done something else instead of going to the same place twice.
My hope is to help you decide what time of day is the best time to visit Miyajima. If you only have a limited time in Japan, you probably only want to go to Miyajima once. Let’s compare!
First, an introduction to Miyajima
The real name of the island is Itsukushima, but Miyajima is the popular name for it. The main attraction here is the great torii gate that appears to be floating when the tide is in. It’s also a World Heritage Site. Miyajima has been considered a holy place, and there are several shrines there. The most famous and unique is the red shrine built over the sea and looking toward the torii gate. The island is also populated with deer, and it is famous for oysters and the snacks shaped like a maple leaf and filled with red bean paste. Mt. Misen is a place to hike and look over the island and the sea.
>> There are also deer around Todaiji in Nara, but that’s not my favourite thing about Todaiji
Getting to Miyajima
Miyajima is an easy day trip from Hiroshima. It’s so easy to get there and so worth it, it should be criminal if you didn’t go while you were in Hiroshima.
From Hiroshima station, take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station. It takes about 25 minutes and costs ¥410. From Miyajimaguchi Station, walk a short distance to the ferry terminal. You can take either the JR ferry or the Matsudai ferry, both of which take 10 minutes and cost ¥180. Both the JR train and JR ferry are valid if you have the Japan Rail Pass.
>> Read my guide on how to get the most value for your Japan Rail Pass?
Is low tide the best time to visit Miyajima?
Let me start with low tide, because this was how I experienced Miyajima the first time. I’m not big on waking up early, even if it means a better tourist experience while on vacation. So we arrived on Miyajima around mid to late morning. We quickly found the deer hanging around on the edge of the water. After a couple minutes of walking, you will see the gate in the little bay. When we arrived, the tide was not completely out, but it was almost out.
To get to the main shrine, first you have to pass through the little street filled with momiji manju snacks. It’s fun to watch them being made on the little conveyers. They are yummy, and my favourite is probably the custard ones, or the even better – the deep fried ones.
>> Because who doesn’t love deep fried food?
At the other end of the street is the main shrine, Itsukushima Shrine. It’s a very unique shrine because of the red pillars and fences, and everything is open. Oh yeah, it’s also built over the water. If you visit at low tide, the shrine will not be “floating,” but will be built into the sand and seaweed. It is not quite as magical as when the tide is in, but it is still very pretty.
The great torii at low tide
I didn’t know this, but when the tide is out, people walk right up to the gate. After a few minutes of walking through the street, the shrine, and checking things out, we noticed people starting to walk toward the gate. You can only really walk up to the torii when the tide is completely out, and even then there are still lots of puddles. Make sure you have waterproof shoes with no holes in them.
It was a pretty cool experience to walk right up to the gate and get photos from right underneath it. I had a lot of fun visiting Miyajima this day, but I wanted to see everything when the tide was in. We wouldn’t be able to make it on the same day, and we weren’t planning to spend the night on the island. Our only option was to come back again tomorrow. So we did.
Is high tide the best time to visit Miyajima?
Luckily, it’s easy and cheap to get to Miyajima from Hiroshima. This time, we checked the tide schedule and made sure that we would be there at the right time. Since this was our second time to Miyajima, we didn’t need to spend as much time looking through the snack shops. Our goal was to see the torii gate and the shrine at high tide.
Obviously, you cannot get up close to the torii gate at high tide, so I realized that it was nice to walk up to it the day before. But at high tide, you get nicer photos from the shore. It’s just the gate, which looks like it is floating, and there are no people hanging around underneath it.
At high tide, Itsukushima shrine is pretty because it’s all surrounded by water, and it’s a very different feel than at low tide. It’s almost like you are walking on the water, and you feel closer to the sea. You cannot walk through some of the canals either.
When is the best time to visit Miyajima? High tide or low tide?
It’s really up to you when you think is the best time to visit Miyajima.
- If you want to get up close to the torii gate and take pictures from right underneath it, then low tide is best. Just remember to wear waterproof shoes. There will be lots of other people under the torii. You can also walk in front of the Itsukushima shrine for a different look. The canals will be dry too. However, I don’t think the shrine looks as pretty without the water.
- If you want to see the torii gate when it is “floating,” high tide is best. You will have nice photos from the shore, and the shrine is a bit more fun when the tide is in.
If you really can’t decide which is the best time to visit Miyajima, and want to see it all in low tide and high tide, you have a couple options. One, you could spend the night in a little ryokan or hostel. I’ve heard Miyajima is something special at the end of the day when all the tourists have left. A second option is to come back a second day like I did, but this takes away time from other activities.
Whichever tide you prefer, check the tide table before you go so you know what you are getting yourself in to.
Which do you think is the best time to visit Miyajima, high tide or low tide?