Miyajima Island in a wheelchair: An Accessibility Review
Miyajima, a small island just outside of Hiroshima is one of Japan’s most beautiful sites. The island’s official name is Itsukushima, but it is commonly referred to as Miyajima (Jap. ‘shrine island’). Maybe you have already seen pictures of a Red Torii (a traditional Japanese gate), that seems to emerge from the ocean? The famous Great Torii belongs to the Itsukushima Shrine, the major sight on the island. Another popular attraction is the deer that freely lives on the island. You can see the deer literally everywhere!
We spent one full day on Miyajima during a four days stay in Hiroshima on our trip through Japan this spring. So we had enough time to explore the streets and to visit the major tourist sights. Let me tell you about Miyajima’s wheelchair accessibility!
JR West Miyajima Ferry
You can easily reach Miyajima by ferry. The ride with the JR West Miyajima Ferry takes about 10 minutes and a round-trip costs 360 Yen for an adult (180 Yen for a child). It is good to know that both, the Japan Rail Pass and the JR West Rail Pass already include the ferry rides!
The first floor of the ferry is completely accessible for wheelchair users. There are dedicated sitting areas as well as accessible restrooms. I parked my wheelchair right next to a large window from where I enjoyed watching the scenery on the way towards the island.
How to get from Hiroshima to the JR West Miyajima Ferry
The JR Sanyo Main Line connects Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi. Take the Sanyo Main Line bound for Iwakuni and get off at the JR Miyajimaguchi Station. Wheelchair users can ask for help at the ticket gate of Hiroshima Station if needed. Staff members will then guide you to the platform and help you board the train. Upon arrival, another staff member will assist you to get off the train. The fare of 410 Yen one way per adult is covered by the Japan Rail Pass as well as the JR West Rail Pass.
Once arrived at the JR Miyajimaguchi Station wheelchair users have to use the wheelchair-accessible route to the Miyajimaguchi Ferry Boarding Terminal. I recommend reading this detailed official guide that describes the very short stroll with lots of pictures.
Wheelchair-accessible attractions on Miyajima
After the short ferry ride, we finally arrived on Miyajima. I was especially excited about that place because of the deer and the magical pictures of the Great Torii I had seen on the Internet. After a short stop at the spacious accessible bathroom inside the terminal, we were ready to discover the island. The way to the Itsukushima Shrine, as well as some other areas on the island, are slightly graveled, however, the ground was easy to roll on.
The Itsukushima Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and mostly known for the Great Torii that seems to float in the water during high tide. It is good to know, that the Shinto shrine is wheelchair-accessible in most parts except for the Treasure Hall. There are entry and exit ramps and the route that leads through the shrine is fully accessible. Although there is no accessible bathroom within the shrine itself, you can find one right next to the exit at Daiganji Temple.
The Daiganji Temple, also called Kikyozan Hokoin, is an ancient temple of the Shingon Buddhism. It is located right next to the exit of the Itsukushima Shrine. The area is graveled and there are some stone blocks on the ground that can be bumpy to roll on for wheelchair users. As mentioned earlier, there is a wheelchair-accessible bathroom next to the Gomado Hall.
On the way to the Kiyomori Shrine, we encountered deer – lots of deer. These little guys were pretty curious and hungry. Actually, they loved to eat our Edamame (Japanese green soybeans) as well as cherry blossoms. Unfortunately, I had to find out that the Kiyomori Shrine isn’t accessible because of some steps. Also, the shrine is rather small. The surrounding landscape, however, is wheelchair-friendly and worth seeing.
Omoto Shrine & Omoto Park
Another magnificent place on Miyajima is the Omoto Park. Giant fir trees are growing in the park and it is also one of the best spots to see cherry blossoms in spring. Like everywhere else on the island, there are loads of deer running through the park. The lower areas of the Omoto Park are wheelchair-friendly. Wheelchair users can find an accessible public bathroom at the park entrance. The Omoto Shrine inside the park can only be seen from the outside. A red wooden horse is standing inside the shrine.
Itsukushima Shrine Town
The Itsukushima Shrine Town is a shopping area with lots of souvenir shops, boutiques, restaurants, and food stalls. We enjoyed strolling through the area and tasted typical Miyajima sweets shaped like maple leaves. On the way leading back to the ferry terminal, you can get nice views of the Itsukushima Shrine and its Great Torii as well as of the sadly not wheelchair-accessible Five Storied Pagoda. There are ramps for wheelchair users on the way through the shrine town. After a great day on the island, we headed back to our hotel in Hiroshima.
To sum things up I would definitely recommend Miyajima Island to wheelchair users. The landscape is stunningly beautiful and the major attractions are accessible. The global accessibility is more than good for such a small island. It is clear to me that lots of efforts have been made to create an accessible environment for visitors in wheelchairs. The only unfortunate thing for me is that the ropeway to the top of Mount Misen isn’t accessible.