Japan Atlas: Nature 
Itsukushima Shrine

Location: Miyajima Town, Hiroshima Prefecture 

 Size of the Island: 30.2 sq km (11.7 sq mi) 

 World Heritage registration: December 1996 

 National Treasures: 
Honsha (main shrine), Sessha Marodo-jinja (shrine for the Guest Deity), and Kairo (corridors) 



Sacred Island on Bay Water  

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origin of Itsukushima Shrine dates back to the end of the 6th century and the existence of the shrine is recorded in a historical document written in 811.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. Due to its distinctive architectural style and its cultural importance as a symbol of Japanese aesthetics, Itsukushima Shrine was registered on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list in December 1996.  

Photo: Itsukushima Shrine (Hiroshima Prefecture).  

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited. 

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