Japan's Iconic Landmark, Miyajima ©Solange Hando
A short ferry ride across the bay of Hiroshima, Miyajima, the 'Island of Shrines', claims World Heritage status. It's one of Japan's most sacred places and you are sure to see the deer roaming free along the shore and up in the hills.
Rising out of the sea, the traditional red gate, or torri, marks the approach to Itsukushima, the Shinto shrine built on stilts along the shore and surrounded by water at high tide. The gate only dates back to 1874 but pilgrims have worshipped on the island for centuries.
The Daisho Temple, Miyajima ©Solange Hando
The main shrine may hold you spellbound for a long time but it's worth taking a look at the nearby five-storey pagoda, the 'hall of 1000 mats' and the Daisho Temple nestling on the luxuriant slopes below the Misen Mountain.
With its pagoda roofs and steep wandering paths, it's a fairytale sort of place sprinkled with stone statues from tiny figures in fancy hats to a giant man-bird or rows of images glittering in a cave festooned in lanterns.
Cute Little Men ©Solange Hando
Down by the waterfront, the 'high street' is a bustling little place lined with souvenir stalls and barbecues where skewered oysters, grown in the bay, mingle with all sorts of delicacies.
The Japanese are fond of all things 'cute' and the visitors follow suite,easily tempted to step inside and pick up a traditional koi banner or a wooden spoon to eat Ramen. The spoon, also used to scoop up rice, was invented on the island, they say, and half-way down the street, there's a giant model on display to prove it.
Going Local on the Island ©Solange Hando
Beyond sightseeing and shopping, Miyajima has much to offer, especially if you enjoy the great outdoors. Minutes from the shore, the hills beckon with pristine scenery and quiet trails and a week on the island could simply fly by, leaving you refreshed and relaxed.
If time is short, a cable car can take visitors almost to the top of Misen or for those who would like to take a close look at the gate, there are canoes and local boats.
Guardian of Itsukushima ©Solange Hando