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Monday, April 21, 2008

Mount Misen


At 535m, Mount Misen is the highest point on the island of Miyajima. The island has been particularly sacred since ancient times, and for a long time humans were not permitted to live on it. One of the side-effects of this has been that the forests of Miyajima have never been logged; it is virgin forest, something quite rare in Japan. The forest and Mt. Misen are included within the World Heritage site along with the more famous Itsukushima Jinja.

Mount Misen

There are two ways to get to the top of Misen; walking, or ropeway and walking. The ropeway begins at the top of Momijidani Park, a ten minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine, or you can take the frequent free shuttle bus. In the fall the park is a blaze of maple leaves.

Mount Misen

A one-way ticket costs 1,000 yen, and the first leg up to Kayatani Station (367m) is by small car. The second and shorter leg is in much larger cars, and takes you up to Shishiiwa Station at 430m. There is a viewing platform here with fine views over the island, across to Hiroshima, and along the Inland Sea. From here to the summit of Misen is about a 30 minute walk.

Mount Misen

Near the summit there are a cluster of small temples. Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism, stayed on the mountaintop in 805 on his way back from studying in China.

Mount Misen

In the Reika-do Hall is a fire that is said was lit originally by Kobo Daishi himself more than 1200 years ago. The flame at the Hiroshima Peace Park was lit from this fire. As well as the numerous temples and buildings there are also lots of small altars and shrines to Inari, Jizo, etc scattered around the mountaintop in rock crevices and under overhanging rocks.

The summit itself is exposed rock and has an observation tower for views.

Mount Misen

If you want to climb Misen on foot, there are 3 trails, though the Daisho-in route is closed for repairs and will be for some years yet. The Momojidani course is the shortest route up, starting in Momojidani Park and following the valley up for about 2.6km, taking 2 hours or less. The longer, more scenic route starts in Omoto Park. It's a little longer in length and time.

There is a free, comprehensive map and guide to Mt. Misen and the trails available from numerous locations around Miyajima.

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