A floating shrine, wild deer, and some of the country’s best seafood: Miyajima Island is a must-visit on any Seto Inland Sea adventure.

Flowing among the southern Japanese islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, the balmy Seto Inland Sea, also known as the Setouchi region, is dotted with roughly 3,000 islands, stretching some 280 miles from east to west. Known as the “Mediterranean of Japan” for its moderate climate that produces delicious olives, lemons, and peaches, and renowned for its oysters, Setouchi is filled with reasons to hop on a cruise, plan a day trip, or take a deep dive into Miyajima Island’s spiritual history and seafood dishes.

Marvel at the Itsukushima Shrine

Miyajima, nicknamed the “Island of the Gods,” predominately draws day-trippers from Hiroshima – multiple train and ferry options range from 10 to 45 minutes – who are eager to see (and photograph) one of Japan’s most celebrated sights: the island’s 55-foot-tall torii. At high tide, this gateway to the Itsukushima Shrine looks as if it’s floating atop the Seto Inland Sea. Pi-shaped torii traditionally stand at the entrance to a Shinto shrine, demarcating the boundary between the sacred and mundane.

Miyajima’s history as a Shinto site stretches back at least as far as the sixth century, when records indicate the Itsukushima Shrine was built to honor the island’s divine spirits and its highest peak, 1,755-foot Mount Misen. The original structures were likely far simpler than the towering monument and expansive complex that visitors see today, which military ruler Taira no Kiyomori commissioned in 1168 and UNESCO recognized as a World Heritage site in 1996.


Japan’s Itsukushima Shrine and floating torii on Miyajima Island.

Japan National Tourism Organization