In the past, women were not allowed on the island and old people were shipped elsewhere to die, so that the ritual purity of the site would not be spoiled; in fact, the island's real name is Itsukushima (厳島), and Miyajima is just a popular nickname meaning "Shrine Island".
From Miyajimaguchi, JR ferries  and Matsudai ferries  run to Miyajima up to 10 times per hour. The trip takes 10 minutes and costs ¥170 each way; Japan Rail Pass holders can use the JR ferry for free. The last ferry returns to the mainland at 10:14PM. Most tour groups are gone after 5PM, so you'll have a different experience on the island if you wait them out.
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