Miyajima's majestic orange O-torii, or big gate, is made of several stout, rot-resistant camphor-tree trunks, and is famed for the illusion it gives of "floating" over the water. The torii is one of Japan's most enduring scenic attractions, but most of the time it actually presides over brownish tidal sand flats, so you will want to time your visit for when the tide is in. Ferry offices and hotels can give you a tidal forecast—don't forget to ask.

Behind the sea gate is the elegant shrine Itsukushima Jinja. For a few hundred yen you can walk the labyrinthine wooden boardwalks out over the tidal basin and pick your spots to snap those perfect photos.

To get to the shrine and to see the torii, go right from the pier on the path that leads through the village, which is crowded with restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops. As you pass through the park, expect to be greeted by herds of fearless deer. Don't show or let them smell any food, or else you'll become too popular; they do have little horns, and they are known to eat most anything within reach.

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