The highest point of the sacred island of Miyajima is Mount Misen (弥山) at 535 meters (1755 ft.). At the very top of the mountain is an observatory, called Mount Misen Observatory, with a stunning view over Hiroshima Bay.
Mount Misen has been a sacred location for centuries. It is said that the Buddhist monk Kukai (Kōbō–Daishi) came here in the year 806 after returning from studies in China. He practiced his religion on mount Misen and established Daisho-in temple in that connection.
There is a modern observatory at the very top of Mount Misen, which provides amazing views over Hiroshima bay and it’s many islands. The observatory really gives a unique perspective on the area around Miyajima, and is worth a trip up the mountain.
The observatory can be reached either by hiking (1.5-2 hours) one of the three paths leading up the mountain, or by a combination of ropeway and hiking (20 + 20 minutes). Even if you take the ropeway, there is a steep hike on an unpaved path to make it all the way to the observatory. There are no vending machines at the top, however there are vending machines at the ropeway station and a small, well-hidden vending machine at the temple buildings near the observatory. In the basement of the observatory is a small tourist information, which also sells small souvenirs – but no drinks.
The temple complex on Mt. Misen
Near the peak of Mount Misen is an ancient temple complex with multiple buildings. The complex is part of Daisho-in temple which is located at the foot of the mountain. The Kiezo-no-Reikando Hall is used to keep a flame, which supposedly has been kept burning since Kukai first lit it 1200 years ago. It was also this flame which was used to light the eternal flame at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. At Kiezo-no-Reikando there is also a large kettle of hot water which is said to cure many diseases. It is well worth to visit the temple on your way to or from Mount Misen Observatory.
Hiking: There are great possibilities to hike up to Mount Misen Observatory. Please read the article on Hiking Mount Misen for details. Calculate for around 1.5 – 2 hours to hike up from Daisho-in temple. It is also possible to book a guided hiking tour to the top of the mountain.
Cable car: the Miyajima Ropeway’s lower station is located on the edge of Miyajima town. It is a 25 minute walk from the ferry port to the ropeway station. There is also a free shuttlebus from Momojidani Park. The ropeway takes you, in two steps, to Shishiiwa Observatory near the top of the mountain. From Shishiiwa Observatory it is a 25 minute, unpaved hike to Mount Misen Observatory.
The ropeway operates up-hill between 9.00 -17.00 and downhill between 9.20 – 17:30. The ride takes between 20-30 minutes total, depending on your timing. Check the official website for more details.
prices as of 04/2020. always check recent information directly with Miyajima Ropeway.
Getting to Miyajima
By ferry: the ferry to Miyajima leaves from Miyajimaguchi port. The ferry takes 10 minutes and costs ¥180. There are two companies operating the route, Matsudai and Japan Rail. If you take the Japan Rail (JR) ferry, then the fare is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Train to Miyajimaguchi port: take the JR Sanyo Line from Hiroshima station to Miyajimaguchi station. The ride takes around 30 minutes and the fare is ¥420 (covered by the Japan Rail Pass). Alternatively it’s possible to take tram no.2 from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi. The fare is lower at ¥270, but the tram takes around 70 minutes from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi. From the station, there is a 5 minute walk to the ferry port.
Hiroshima direct ferry: there are direct ferries from Hiroshima to Miyajima. If you have limited time in Hiroshima, this might be the most efficient option. The direct boat leaves from Hiroshima Peace Park (show pier on map), and the ride takes about 45 minutes. The one-way fare is ¥2’200, and a return ticket is ¥4’000. There are 17 daily departures in each direction.