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Having made Hiroshima his home, tour leader, Hugh knows all of the secrets for making the most of the fireworks festival on neighbouring Miyajima.
Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival
The Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival isn’t Japan’s largest fireworks display, nor even the most popular. However it is without doubt, one of the most exciting!
This spectacular festival takes place at the beginning of August every year, and is focused around the holy World Heritage scenery of Miyajima’s famous “floating” Itsukushima Shrine; one of the most recognisable symbols of Japan. When the tide goes out, visitors flock around the gate in the shallow water to get a closer look.
Over 300,000 visitors travel to the island to enjoy the festival. With approximately 5,000 fireworks are set off, 200 launched directly behind the gate from the water (carefully positioned just far enough away to avoid burning the gate down!), it’s a very impressive display.
The O-torii Gate is one of the most unique locations for fireworks on the planet, and the colourful illuminations attract thousands of photo enthusiasts. Crowds pack the shores on both the island side and mainland side so it’s worth planning your expedition to see the fireworks in advance.
Staying in Miyajima: Things to do
An obvious ploy to avoid some of the crowds would be to stay overnight at one of the wonderful lodging venues. They are best reserved well in advance, and it’s worth heading to Miyajima early in the day; make the most of your time and visit the many other lovely attractions that the island has to offer.
Start with a visit to the shrine, if you’re lucky you might just spot a wedding. I recommend including entry to the Treasure House in your shrine entry ticket.
The Treasure House is a small but interesting museum opposite the shrine exit. It’s endowed with a beautiful display of feudal era fabrics, art and weaponry – well worth a half an hour visit. After this, take a hike (or ropeway ride) up to Mount Misen and sup on fresh oysters or Hiroshima’s famed delicious okonomiyaki.
Alternatively, it is exciting amongst the hoi polloi. The entire bank that semi-circles Itsukushima Shrine has first come first serve free seating; most people throw down a woven straw or plastic sheet. It’s worth taking something to “stake your claim”, but guard it well and don’t let anyone try to scalp a fee for sitting there!
Day trip to Miyajima fireworks
Top tip: If you, like nearly everyone else, are taking a day trip and crossing back on the ferry after the show is over, instead of joining the crowds waiting for a train back into Hiroshima, take the first train heading in the opposite direction (Iwakuni bound). Get off after one stop so you can grab a seat on the next Hiroshima bound train.
Whichever way you choose to enjoy the festival there’s no doubt that as the fireworks are launched into the night sky, and brilliant colours reflect in the waters below (all to the chorus of delight from onlookers), Miyajima will fill your heart with wonder.
For more information about unmissable festivals and the best time to visit Japan, have a look at When to Travel.