Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
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||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.
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.
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origin of Itsukushima Shrine dates back to the end of the 6th century and the existence of the shrine is recorded in a historical document written in 811.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.
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.
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