Itsukushima Shinto Shrine (1996)
Japan

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Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine, Maroudo Shrine. Two se-tenant stamps in a composite design.

The island of Itsukushima, in the Seto inland sea, has been a holy place of Shintoism since the earliest times. The first shrine buildings here were probably erected in the 6th century. The present shrine dates from the 13th century and the harmoniously arranged buildings reveal great artistic and technical skill. The shrine plays on the contrasts in colour and form between mountains and sea and illustrates the Japanese concept of scenic beauty, which combines nature and human creativity. 
  • Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine, Maroudo Shrine. Two se-tenant stamps in a composite design. The catalogue numbers refer to the Sakura Catalogue 2005. 

Miyajima (also known as Itsukushima), measuring 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) in length and 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) in width, is an island in Hiroshima Bay. 

With Itsukushima Shrine standing in an inlet backed by the surrounding mountains soaring steeply from the coast, the island is known as one of the three most scenic places in Japan along with Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and Ama-no-hashidate in Kyoto Prefecture. 

Since ancient times, the island of Miyajima itself has been worshipped as a god, and living there was prohibited. Even today, Miyajima is considered to be sacred and some of the ancient rules such as no cultivation or burials on the island still remain. 

  • United Nations (Geneva) 2001. Itsukushima, Japan. Scan by courtesy of Jean-Michel (France). 

United Nations (Geneva) 2001. Itsukushima, Japan.

Japan. Map of Prefectures. Miyago is No. 24.
  • Japan. Map of Prefectures. Miyago is No. 24. 

  • Japan 2001. Souvenir sheet from the Itsukushima Shrine. The individual stamps are shown below as close-ups. 

Japan 2001. Souvenir sheet from the Itsukushima Shrine.

The origin of Itsukushima Shrine dates back to the end of the 6th century and the existence of the shrine is recorded in a historical document written in 811. The Taira Family, one of the warrior class leaders who acquired political power in the 12th century, esteemed the shrine highly and backed up reconstruction of the shrine buildings around 1168, which formed the basic composition of the buildings remaining today. 

Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine. The main sanctuary. Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine. "Lion Dog". Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine. Maroudo Shrine and Pagoda. Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine. Mask of Traditional Dance.

Not only because of the shrine but also as an important point of traffic through the Seto Inland Sea, the island continued to be taken good care of by subsequent political leaders. The buildings and gate of the shrine were frequently damaged by fires and typhoons in the 13th and 14th centuries and were once devastated, but all the buildings were restored to their original form in 1572 and have been maintained since then.  

Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine. Ornamental Horse. Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine. Treasure Pagoda. Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine. Oomoto Shrine. Japan 2001. Itsukushima Shrine. Treasure Pagoda in Autumn Scenery.

Because the Otorii (a large shrine gate) and shrine buildings are built on the coastal edge, they appear as if they are afloat on the sea when the tide is in. The roofed corridor connecting the shrine buildings is designated as a National Treasure. 

The Itsukushima Shrine is a supreme example of a religious centre, setting traditional architecture of great artistic and technical merit against a dramatic natural background and thereby creating a work of art of incomparable physical beauty. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in Japan (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Japan for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
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