Itsukushima Shinto Shrine (World Heritage)

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine was built in the 6th / 7th centuries. Erected in the 18th century on the island of Miyajima. Like a pier, it stands on stilts over the water. The gate of the Shinto Shrine is 160 meters from the shore in the bay and can be reached on foot at low tide. Itsukushima is one of the most famous sights in Japan.

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine: Facts

Official title: Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Cultural monument: consecrated to the female deities Ichikishima-hime, Tagori-hime and Tagitsu-hime, today’s shrine with parts of the shrine from the Kamakura period (1185-1333), shrine complex and others. with Honden (main hall), Heiden (»sacrificial hall«), Haiden (»hall of worship«), the No 0 stage and the 16 m high Torii
Continent: Asia
Country: Japan, Shikoku
Location: Miyajima Island, Hiroshima Bay; southwest of Hiroshima
Appointment: 1996
Meaning: A Shinto sacred place for centuries, symbol of the Japanese understanding of the connection between the beauty of nature and human creativity

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine: History

592-628 Reign of Empress Suiko
593 probably construction of the first shrine
881 first documented mention in “Nihon Koki”
1118-81 Taira no Kiyomori
1164 Construction of the main shrine, gift of 33 Buddhist sutras scrolls by Taira no Kiyomori
1207 and 1223 Destruction of the shrine by fire
1325 Hurricane damage
1571 Construction of today’s shrine
1587 Foundation of the Great Sutras Hall
1874-75 eighth reconstruction of the torii
2004 Severe storm damage to the shrine, followed by restoration work

The residence of the daughters of the storm god

At low tide it teems and bustles around the huge, red-painted camphor wood torii. Hundreds of Japanese people rummage through the silt for tasty snails. And during the flood – as if floating down from heavenly spheres – the torii and shrine buildings melt over the water, allowing the sea, the medium of the three daughters of the storm god Susanoo, who are worshiped here as Shinto deities, to sink in.

On islands – suggesting the inaccessible, but close enough to permit cult activities – shrines were repeatedly erected; However, this facility is unique here, where land and sea overlap in perfect harmony between architecture and nature.

»Shinto«, literally »way of the gods«, is Japan’s very own religion; the “shrine” is their place of worship and the “torii” is the entrance and symbol of the Shinto shrine. It is a coincidence that the name for this building sounds almost like our word “gate” – and indeed resembles it. Translated, however, Torii means “bird seat” and refers to the rooster, the animal consecrated to the sun goddess, the Shinto central deity.

There is no shortage of torii on Miyajima. At irregular intervals they stand on the shore around the island, which in its entirety turns out to be a shrine, a “shrine island” – as the literal translation is. It was once so sacred that entering it was unthinkable. A reason for the shrine to be built in the water?

Before they took up residence here, the deities inspected the island under the guidance of the holy crow – a tour that is repeated every year to this day. Part of the ceremony is offering a rice cake to the crow. If a participant in the ritual is “unclean”, she will spurn the rice cake. In the meantime, the Shinto deities, the »Kami«, have to come to terms with sharing this refuge with people, especially since it is one of the three most beautiful views of Japan. However, the “Kami” of Miyajima did not shake one essential aspect of Shinto: that of purity. What is considered to be “unclean”, such as birth and death, has no place on this island.

Deer are plentiful on the island, and they feast on the blossoms of countless cherry trees in spring. In autumn the maple covers the island with an “Indian Summer”. All year round, however, its leaves are offered as cakes with a wide variety of fillings.

And finally, nobody escapes Miyajima’s talisman, the flat, wooden rice spoons. The first production at the end of the 18th century is attributed to the Buddhist monk Seishin. If the luck that was hoped for with the purchase occurred, a new, mostly larger rice spoon was returned to the shrine as a thank you. Soldiers awaiting embarkation on Miyajima during the Sino-Japanese War in 1894 gave their rice spoons to the gods in the hope of victory and a safe return home.

According to physicscat, Japan owes the special status of this island to the head of one of the most powerful and influential families of the late Heian period – Taira no Kiyomori. The clash between the Taira and the rival Minamoto clan formed the central event in the late 12th century and led to the emergence of a class that – with the exception of the geisha – is identified with Japan like no other: that of the samurai. One of the three divine sisters, Ichikishima-hime no mikoto, from whom the shrine owes its name, was the protective deity of the Taira. The Taira bequeathed numerous treasures to their shrine, such as the »Heike-nokyo«, Buddhist scriptures in 33 scrolls, donated by Taira no Kiyomori in 1164.

The buildings of Itsukushima Shrine are testimony to the architecture of the Heian period; but above all the daughters of the storm god Susanoo are venerated in him. In 1991 he paid a visit to his daughters, whose residence had just been extensively restored. It was a complete success: Hardly a bar remained on the other! The Itsukushima Shrine is also a testimony to the never-ending struggle of the Japanese against the often violent nature of their native archipelago.

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine