Top choice shinto shrine in Miyajima

Image by JTB Photo UIG via Getty Images

With origins as far back as the late 6th century, Itsukushima-jinja gives Miyajima its real name. The shrine's unique and attractive pier-like construction is a result of the island's sacred status: commoners were not allowed to set foot on the island and had to approach by boat through the torii (shrine gate) in the bay. Much of the time, though, the shrine and torii are surrounded by mud: for the classic view of the 'floating' torii from the shrine, come at high tide.

The shrine's present form dates from 1168, when it was rebuilt under the patronage of Taira no Kiyomori, head of the doomed Heike clan. On one side of the shrine is a floating nō stage, built by local lord Asano Tsunanaga in 1680 and still used for (stylised dance-drama) performances every year from 16 to 18 April, as part of the Toka-sai Festival.