It is situated on an island in a picturesque corner of the Inland Sea and can be reached by a ferry-boat in a quarter of an hour from Miyajima station.
The founding of the shrine took place in ancient times ; its name is first mentioned in a record of the 9th century. But the present group of buildings were erected in 1168 by Taira-no-Kiyomori, the Lord of Aid province.
However, most of the buildings standing today were reconstructed in the 16th century by Mori Motonari after the original plan.
The shrine is situated in a picturesque environment. In the background is Mount Misen and before the buildings stretches the sea, both combining to make a unique, harmonious setting. At full tide water flows under the buildings, which then seem to be floating on the surface of the sea.
The plan of the shrine is complicated and full of variety. The main shrine quarter, in the center of the grounds, has on the right the Marodo-jinsha and the Daikoku-sha, and on the left the Tenjin-sha. They are all connected with long galleries decorated with many hanging bronze lanterns.
The main shrine is connected with the Hon-den or the Hall of Offerings, the Hai-den or Hall of Worship, and the Harai-dono or Place of Purification. In front of the Haraidono extends the Hira-butai or a flat platform and a raised stage on which sacred dances are performed. In the distance, stands in the sea the great wooden torii.
All the wooden parts of the buildings are painted red, the walls are white, and the roofs are thatched with the hinoki bark of dark neutral tones. These three colors harmonize well with the evergreen trees in the background and the expanse of water before the facade.
On the west side of the grounds is a Noh stage, erected by Mori Motonari, and one of the oldest examples of its kind.
Near the western exit of the shrine is a treasury in which a number of artistic objects are placed on view.
On a hill near the shrine stands a five-storied stupa erected in the middle of the 16th century. Its architecture is in a style which is a mixture of native and Chinese.
Near the stupa is a large building, the Senjo-kaku, erected in the late 16th century by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and now dedicated to his spirit.
A sacred dance is performed for visitors on special application. The many scenic spots in and around the island are also of great interest to tourists, and motor-boat excursions can be made in all seasons except winter.