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Itsukushima Shrine

itsukushima shrine in hiroshima, itsukushima shrine location
Itsukushima Shrine 厳島神社, Itsukushima-jinja is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima popularly known as Miyajima, best known for its "floating" torii gate2 It is in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan The shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Japanese government has designated several buildings and possessions as National Treasures


  • 1 History
  • 2 Religious significance
  • 3 See also
  • 4 Gallery
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Itsukushima jinja was the chief Shinto shrine ichinomiya of Aki Province 3

The shrine has been destroyed several times, but the first shrine buildings were probably erected in the 6th century The present shrine dates from the mid-16th century, and is believed to follow an earlier design from the 12th century45 That design was established in 1168, when funds were provided by the warlord Taira no Kiyomori

The shrine was "devoted to the worship of goddesses to whom Kiyomori owed thanks, he felt, for his success in life" Originally it was a pure Shinto shrine "where no births or deaths were allowed to cause pollution Its treasures include the celebrated Heike Nōkyō, or 'Sutras dedicated by the Taira House of Taira' These consist of thirty-two scrolls, on which the Lotus and other sutras have been copied by Kiyomori, his sons, and other members of the family, each completing the writing of one scroll Kiyomori lavished great wealth upon Itsukushima, and he liked to show the place to his friends and colleagues, or even to royal personages"6

The Itsukushima Shrine at high tide, when it appears to float on the water

The shrine was designed and built on pier-like structures over the bay so that it would appear to be floating on the water, separate from the sacred island, which could be approached by the devout

Near the main shrine is a noh stage which dates from 15902 Noh theater performances have long been used to pay homage to the gods through the ritual acting out of key events in Shinto myth

The dramatic gate, or torii, of Itsukushima Shrine is one of Japan's most popular tourist attractions, and the most recognizable and celebrated feature of the Itsukushima shrine,7 and the view of the gate in front of the island's Mount Misen is classified as one of the Three Views of Japan along with the sand bar Amanohashidate, and Matsushima Bay Although a gate has been in place since 1168, the current gate dates back only to 18752 The gate, built of decay-resistant camphor wood, is about 16 metres high The placement of an additional leg in front of and behind each main pillar identifies the torii as reflecting the style of Ryōbu Shintō dual Shinto, a medieval school of esoteric Japanese Buddhism associated with the Shingon Sect

The torii appears to be floating only at high tide When the tide is low, it is approachable by foot from the island Gathering shellfish near the gate is also popular at low tide At night, powerful lights on the shore illuminate the torii

The torii gate, accessible from the island during low tide

On September 5, 2004, the shrine was severely damaged by Typhoon Songda The boardwalks and roof were partially destroyed, and the shrine was temporarily closed for repairs

Religious significanceedit

The shrine is dedicated to the three daughters of Susano-o no Mikoto, Shinto god of seas and storms, and brother of the sun goddess Amaterasu tutelary deity of the Imperial Household Because the island itself has been considered sacred, commoners were not allowed to set foot on it throughout much of its history to maintain its purity To allow pilgrims to approach, the shrine was built like a pier over the water, so that it appeared to float, separate from the land8 The red entrance gate, or torii, was built over the water for much the same reason Commoners had to steer their boats through the torii before approaching the shrine

Retaining the purity of the shrine is so important that since 1878, no deaths or births have been permitted near it9 To this day, pregnant women are supposed to retreat to the mainland as the day of delivery approaches, as are the terminally ill or the very elderly whose passing has become imminent Burials on the island are forbidden

View from the torii

See alsoedit

  • List of National Treasures of Japan crafts: others
  • List of National Treasures of Japan crafts: swords
  • List of National Treasures of Japan paintings
  • List of National Treasures of Japan shrines
  • List of National Treasures of Japan writings
  • List of Shinto shrines
  • List of World Heritage Sites in Japan
  • Modern system of ranked Shinto shrines
  • Mont Saint-Michel, a sister city and a similar island-temple UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Three Views of Japan
  • Tourism in Japan
  • Twenty-Two Shrines
  • Three Great Shrines of Benzaiten
  • Hiroshima to Honolulu Friendship Torii Itsukushima replica



  1. ^ http://whcunescoorg/en/list/776
  2. ^ a b c Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric 2005 "Itsukushima-jinja" in Japan Encyclopedia, p 407
  3. ^ "Nationwide List of Ichinomiya," p 3 Archived 2013-05-17 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 2012-11-20
  4. ^ "Itsukushima Shinto Shrine" UNESCO's World Heritage Centre Archived from the original on 23 April 2016 
  5. ^ Mason, Penelope 2004 Dimwiddle, Donald, ed History of Japanese Art 2nd ed 
  6. ^ Sansom, George 1958 A History of Japan to 1334 Stanford University Press p 276 ISBN 0804705232 
  7. ^ "Japan Sightseeing Guide" japan-guidecom - Japan Travel and Living Guide japan-guidecom Retrieved 2009-01-17 
  8. ^ Turner, Victor W 1969 The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure Chicago: Aldine Pub 
  9. ^ "Itsukushima" GoJapanGo 2010 Retrieved 17 March 2011 

External linksedit

  • UNESCO World Heritage description
  • Official Website of Itsukushima Shrine
  • Miyajima Guide including Itsukushima Shrine
  • National Archives of Japan: Itsukushima kakei

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