The island of Miyajima is a lovely place to visit at any time of the year and any time of the day. Everyone loves Miyajima and, at times, it can seem like everyone is there at the same time. Keep it to yourself, but the island is at its best in the hours after the crowds leave. This spring, as part of the commemorations of the 20th anniversary of Itsukushima Shrine’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site there’s even more reason to linger on Miyajima after dark.
As night falls, calm descends on Miyajima after the hoards head to the ferry. The famous shrine and grand floating O-torii gate is illuminated and lanterns line the seaside paths. For 6 weeks in spring, Itsukushima Shrine and the O-torii gate, along with the vermillion 5-storied pagoda that stands on the hill next to the Senjyokaku Pavillion and the Tahoto pagoda that overlooks the shrine will be lit up until 11pm nightly. The atmosphere is further enhanced the streets of the little town are lit by lanterns decorated with elaborate kiri-e paper cutouts depicting scenes from the island’s long and colorful history, culture and scenery.
It’s a perfect opportunity for a romantic evening wandering the streets of Miyajima and popping into some of the little understated nightspots that have been opening up on the island over the past few years.
If you can make it, a visit on the evenings of Saturday, April 2 and Saturday, May 28 which open and close the illumination season. On these two nights some 3000 candles will light up the approach to and grounds of Daishoin Temple and there will be live music performances from between 19:00.
The last ferry departures from Miyajima are at 20:00 (JR), 20:15 (Matsudai), 20:42 (JR), 21:25 (JR) and 22:14 (JR) on the JR ferry.