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Itsukushima Shrine and Miyajima Island

Miyajima is a jewel of an island easily reached from Hiroshima City. With its huge red torri, or shrine gate, rising up out of the waters and Mt. Misen crowning the island, Miyajima is considered one of Japan's most beautiful places. The island has been sacred since ancient times, after three deities were enshrined here in 593. Itsukushima Shrine, built over the water so that it appears to float when the tide is in, is a fine example of 12th-century architecture and so harmoniously complements the sea and mountain scenery around it that it has earned World Heritage Site status.

Painted a brilliant vermillion that contrasts starkly with the nature around it, the shrine and its 53-feet-tall torri are one of Japan’s most photogenic sites. Home to tame roaming deer, considered messengers of the gods, Miyajima is renowned also for its natural beauty.

Momijidani Park, adorned with cherry blossoms in spring and ablaze with maple leaves in autumn, leads to trails and a ropeway up Mt. Misen, where visitors are treated to spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea. Here, too, is the Eternal Flame, said to have been burning since the revered Kobo Daishi lit it more than 1,200 years ago and used to light the Flame of Peace in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.