A Korean American writer, editor, and an inspired novelist, I write about traveling in Asia, philosophy, and the Korean language.
When tourists see pictures of Miyajima island, they will most likely recognize the place for its “floating” torii gate (a.k.a. Itsukushima Shrine), an ancient Shinto shrine that seems to float on water at high tide. Personally, I wanted to visit the island for its roaming and peaceful deers, which you can see as soon as you get off the ferry and exit the station. However, as my friends and I explored the island and walked up a hill (as well as a few stairs), we found a low-key temple called Daisho-in. The reason why I call this play low-key is due to the fact that there were only a few tourists in contrast to a hefty amount of locals elsewhere on the island. Many tourists were, in fact, nearby at the Itsukushima Shrine and the local markets, buying grilled oysters and souvenir items.
My recommendation, however, is to venture out beyond the tourist zones and see this unique temple that’s about a 20-minute walk from the ferry station. On the way, you can see the “floating” temple, the roaming deers, and the street vendors.
The day I went was during the cherry blossom season, so I was able to see the floating pink petals surrounding the temples, staircases, and the crimson bridge. It was a beautiful sight. Even if you don’t go during the cherry blossom season, I think you’ll still find this place breathtaking, as there are hundreds of statues of the guardian deity of children by the stone stairs. They all wore hats and some of them held marbles, coins, or necklaces in their hands.
Some of the things I really enjoyed about this temple was being able to ring the bell, which was actually my first time doing so as a tourist. There was also a space where every box had different types of omikuji, or fortunes, attached to cat figures or a “floating” gate pin. The price was 200–300 yen, and the Japanese temples typically trusted people enough to leave it out in the open without anybody watching the place. There’s a cheaper omikuji for 50 yen at the top, but we decided that a cat souvenir was worth the price. The downfall about these fortunes is that it’s only in Japanese, so it’ll be difficult for tourists to determine whether it’s a good or a bad fortune (which is important as the bad fortunes should be tied and left behind). Lastly, the “Henjokutsu Cave” is a tranquil and quiet complex, with 88 principal Buddhist icons that are related to the Shikoku Pilgrimage of 88 temples.
I was given a pamphlet by a monk, which listed the annual events held at the Daisho-in temple, including a fire-walking ritual (April 15 and November 15) and a lantern ritual (September 9-11). For more information, there are monks by the information office of the temple with various souvenir items and a place to get a stamp for your Goshuin notebook, or you could get the notebook if you don’t have one yet.
Away from the bustling tourist spots in Miyajima island lies an enchanting and peaceful temple at the top of the hill—a place that’s perfect to catch your breath and find peace surrounded by the many deities.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Danbi Yu