Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

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 12th 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.

Sanctuaire shinto d'Itsukushima

Lieu saint du shintoïsme depuis les temps les plus reculés, l'île d'Itsukushima, dans la mer intérieure de Seto, aurait accueilli ses premiers sanctuaires au VIe siècle. Le sanctuaire actuel date du XIIe siècle et ses bâtiments harmonieusement disposés témoignent d'une grande qualité artistique et technique. Composition jouant, entre mer et montagne, sur les contrastes de couleurs et de masses, le sanctuaire d'Itsukushima illustre parfaitement le concept japonais de la beauté d'un panorama unissant paysage naturel et création humaine.

مزار الشنتو في ايتسوكوشيما

استقبلت جزيرة ايتسوكوشيما التي تقع في بحر سيتو الداخلي، وهي مكانٌ مقدّسٌ للديانة الشنتويّة منذ العصور القديمة، المزارات الأولى في القرن الرابع. وقد تمّ إنشاء المزار الحالي في القرن الثاني عشر. وتشهد أبنيته المصفوفة بطريقةٍ متناسقةٍ على نوعيّةٍ فنيّةٍ وتقنيّةٍ رائعة. ومزار ايتسوكوشيما الذي يلعب من خلال تكوينه بين البحر والجبل، على تباين الألوان والتكتّلات، يُجسّد المفهوم الياباني لجمال المشهد الذي يجمع ما بين المنظر الطبيعي والابداع البشري.

source: UNESCO/ERI

严岛神殿

严岛位于濑户内海,自古以来一直是神道教的圣地。岛上的第一座神殿可追溯到公元6世纪。现在见到的神殿建于公元13世纪,协调有致的建筑显示了卓越的艺术水平和技术能力。神殿通过大海和高山不同色彩和形态的强烈反差完美地表达了日本人对于自然之美的理念,即自然美和人类所创造美的融合。    

source: UNESCO/ERI

Синтоистское святилище Ицукусима

Остров Миядзима во Внутреннем Японском море, вместе с расположенным на нем святилищем Ицукусима был священным местом синтоизма начиная с самых ранних времен. Здания первых святилищ возникли здесь, вероятно, в VI в. Существующее в наши дни святилище датируется XIII в., при этом гармоничность в расположении его построек говорит о большом художественном вкусе и техническом умении. Святилище выделяется контрастом красок и форм на фоне гор и моря, и служит иллюстрацией японской концепции живописной красоты, которая объединяет творчество природы и творения человека.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Santuario sintoísta de Itsukushima

Lugar santo del sintoísmo desde tiempos muy antiguos, la isla de Itsukushima, situada en el mar interior de Seto, vio alzarse su primer templo en el siglo VI. El santuario actual data del siglo XII y sus edificios, armónicamente dispuestos, son testigos de la gran maestría técnica y artística de sus constructores. Su diseño y composición juegan con el contraste de colores y volúmenes entre el mar y la montaña, ilustrando así perfectamente el concepto japonés de la belleza escénica, que une la hermosura del paisaje natural a la creatividad humana.

source: UNESCO/ERI

厳島神社

source: NFUAJ

Itsukushima Shinto heiligdom

Het eiland Itsukushima in de Seto binnenzee is een heilige plaats van het shintoïsme sinds de vroegste tijden. Er zijn vermoedens dat het Itsukushima heiligdom werd opgericht in 593, hoewel het bestaan ervan niet is bevestigd tot 811. Het huidige heiligdom dateert uit de 12e eeuw en de harmonieus geplaatste gebouwen – gebouwd aan de voet van de berg Misen – tonen grote artistieke en technische vaardigheid. Het heiligdom speelt in op de contrasten in kleur en vorm tussen de bergen en de zee en illustreert het Japanse concept van landschappelijke schoonheid, die de natuur en menselijke creativiteit combineert.

Source: unesco.nl

  • English
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Dutch
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

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 but is an accurate reflection of the12th century construction style and was founded by the most powerful leader of the time, Taira no Kiyomori.

The property covers 431.2 hectares on the Island of Itsukushima, and the buffer zone (2,634.3 ha) includes the rest of the island and part of the sea in front of Itukushima-jinia. The property comprises seventeen buildings and three other structures forming two shrine complexes (the Honsha complex forming the main shrine, and Sessha Marodo-jinja complex) and ancillary buildings as well as a forested area around Mt. Misen.

The buildings of Itsukushima-jinja are in the general tradition of Japanese Shinto architecture, in which a mountain or natural object becomes the focus of religious belief to be worshipped from a shrine, generally constructed at the foot of the mountain. The harmoniously arranged shrine buildings in the property are located on the sea and the scenery, with a trinity composed of the man-made architecture in the centre, the sea in the foreground, and the mountains in the background, and have become recognized as a Japanese standard of beauty. The sites reveal great artistic and technical skill and are unique among extant shrine buildings in Japan. The shrine is an outstanding and unique architectural work which combines manmade achievements and natural elements. It is tangible proof of the great achievements of Taira no Kiyomori.

Even though the buildings of Itsukushima-jinja have been reconstructed twice, this was done in a scrupulously accurate manner preserving the styles that prevailed from the late 12th century to the early 13th century.

The property is a Shinto shrine, a religion which centres on polytheistic nature worship, the origin of which goes back to primitive times. Over its long history, it has developed into a religion which became unique in the world, adopting continental influences to combine with its own indigenous traditions. Japanese spiritual life is deeply rooted in this religion.

Criterion (i): The configuration of the shrine buildings of ltsukushima-jinja presents an excellent architectural scene on the lines of the aristocratic residential style of this period.  It is an outstanding work combining manmade and natural elements. The buildings exhibit great artistic and technical merit and are sited on the sea with a backdrop of impressive mountains.

Criterion (ii): The shrine buildings of Itsukushima-jinja are in the general tradition of Shinto shrine architecture in Japan and provide invaluable information for the understanding of the evolving spiritual culture of the Japanese people, namely the Japanese concept of scenic beauty.  The most important aspect of Itsukushima-jinja is the setting of the shrine buildings as the central part of a trinity with the sea in the foreground and mountains in the background, recognized as a standard of beauty against which other examples of scenic beauty have come to be understood.

Criterion (iv): The buildings of Itsukushima-jinja, which through scrupulously accurate reconstructions have preserved styles from the late 12th and early 13th centuries, are outstanding examples of the ancient type of shrine architecture integrated with the surrounding landscape, the physical manifestation of humankind’s worship of nature.

Criterion (vi): Japanese spiritual life is deeply rooted in ancient shintoism which is centred on polytheistic nature worship. ltsukushima-jinja provides important clues understanding this aspect of Japanese religious expression.

Integrity

The boundaries of the property include all the shrine buildings and natural elements that are indispensable for demonstrating the harmonious building arrangement and the integrated scenic beauty at the time of its original construction by Taira no Kiyomori in the 12th century. Moreover, the remaining area of the island and a section on the sea forms an overall buffer zone to control proposed development activities, and thus the integrity of the property is intact.

Authenticity

The authenticity of the Itsukushima-jinja monuments and landscape is high and in complete accord with the principles enunciated in the Nara Document on Authenticity of 1994. As an ancient place of religious or spiritual importance, the setting continues to reflect the scenic harmony of the monuments, sea, and mountain forest and is properly maintained from both cultural and natural viewpoints. The design expressing the monuments’ historic value, including the character of the plan, structure, exterior appearance, and interior space, remains unchanged from its original state. In addition, the original materials are preserved to a great extent in the structural framework and other fundamental parts of the monuments. When new materials are required, the same type of materials are used with the same techniques based on detailed investigation. The property still retains high level of authenticity in terms of form/design, materials/substance, traditions/techniques, location/setting and spirit.

Protection and management requirements

The twenty buildings that make up the component monuments included in the property are designated as a National Treasure or Important Cultural Properties. The entire area of 431.2 ha, in which the buildings are set and including the forest land surrounding them and the sea in front of Itsukushima-jinia, is designated as a Special Historic Site, a Special Place of Scenic Beauty or Natural Monument. Thus, the property is properly protected under the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. Under the law, proposed alterations to the existing state of the property are restricted: any alteration must be approved by the national government.
The property is also protected under the 1957 Natural Parks Law. In addition, within the 431.2 ha area, a forested zone of approximately 422 ha is designated as a City Park Area by Hiroshima Prefecture under the 1956 City Parks Law. These laws impose restrictions on construction of new buildings and tree felling.
Land on the island, other than the property area and a section of the sea, forms the buffer zone, which is covered wholly under the 1950 Law and the 1957 Law to protect and preserve the cultural and natural environments and to restrict any acts that might adversely affect their existing conditions, inter alia construction of new structures and tree felling.

The twenty buildings as component monuments of the property are owned by the Itsukushima-jinja Religious Organization, which is responsible for their management. The organization employs a qualified conservation architect who plans and supervises routine maintenance and repair works including, in particular, damage repair after typhoons. As all of the monuments and their surrounding buildings are made of wood, each of the monuments is equipped with automatic fire alarms, fire hydrants, and lightning arresters.
The national government provides both financial assistance and technical guidance through its Agency for Cultural Affairs. Other agencies and organizations associated with the protection and management of the property area include the Ministry of Environment, the Forestry Agency, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Hiroshima Prefecture, and Hatsukaichi City.

Long Description

The shrine buildings of Itsukushima-jinja are in the general tradition of Shinto shrine architecture in Japan, generally constructed at the foot of a mountain. They have preserved the styles prevailing from the late 12th to the early 13th centuries and are important as examples of the ancient type of shrine architecture integrated with the surrounding landscape, the physical manifestation of human worship of nature.

The buildings consist of the main shrine buildings (Honsha), constructed and composed to achieve harmony within a single design concept, and the other buildings that have been added to them over a long period of history. Each building has high architectural quality in itself.

The architectural style of the north-facing Honsha buildings and the west-facing buildings of the Sessha Marodo-jinja, connected by the kairo (roofed corridor), was influenced by the aristocratic dwelling-house style of the Heian period. The frontal view of the buildings, with the mountain as a backdrop, is emphasized; the entire area, from the Otorii in the foreground to the mountain in the background, resembles a succession of folding screens. The delicate forms of the red-painted buildings in front of the dark green of the mountain create a striking composition with sharp contrasts of colour and mass.

Like many other Shinto shrines that had constructed Buddhist buildings, Itsukushima-jinja lost many of them after the rejection of Buddhism with the Meiji Restoration of 1868. The few that survive in the surrounding hills are considered to be as indispensable to the history of ltsukushima-jinja as its Shinto monuments.

Honsha: the buildings, consisting of the Haraiden , Haiden (worship hall), Heiden (Hei hall) and Honden (main hall) are on the axis of the Otorii . The Haraiden projects out towards the sea and the Haiden and Honden , linked by the Heiden and covered by a single roof structure, are ranged behind it, parallel to the sea. They give a calm and elegant impression with the delicate lines of their generously spreading eaves, the soft roof surfaces, and the horizontal lines of the floors, nageshi (horizontal tie-beams), and kahiranuki (head tie-beams). They are supported on structural frames composed of massive wooden columns and kumimono (brackets).

In front of the Haraiden is the Hirabutai (ceremonial platform), which is connected by a plank floor to the Higashi-kairo (east corridor) and the Nishi-kairo (west corridor) for access from other parts of the complex. The Hirabutai projects forward and is the setting for the Takabutai (stage), with vermilion lacquered balustrades on four sides. The court dances performed on this stage were brought from the capital in the Heian period (794-1184) and have been preserved by the priests of ltsukushima for more than eight centuries.

The Sessha Marodo-jinja shrine complex, north-east of the Honsha group, faces west. Its components (Haraiden , Haiden , Heiden , Honden ) are laid out in the same form as those of the Honsha, and are very similar in style.

The area contains the ancillary buildings associated with Shintoism and Buddhism that accreted over the centuries around the famous Shinto shrine. These include the Gojunoto (five-storey pagoda), Tahoto (two-storey pagoda), Sessha Tenjin-sha Honden and Massha Hokoku-jinja Honden (Senjokaku).

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

ltsukushima Island is one of many in the western part of the Setonaikai (Set0 Inland Sea), between the islands of Honshu and Shikoku. Because it has the region's highest mountain, Mount Misen (530 m), it has been worshipped by people in the region since ancient times: they felt such awe that they dared not set foot on it, worshipping it from afar. However, their faith was so great that they were driven to construct shrines on the shores of the island on more than one occasion.

It is thought that Itsukushima-jinja was founded in 593, although its existence is not confirmed before 811. The Nihon Koki states that ltsukushima no kami (the god of Itsukushima) took his place among the celebrated gods, and the Imperial household began to present hei (sacred staffs with cut paper at the top) to the shrine. It became known as a sacred shrine in the COUntn/ of Aki during the Heian Period (794-1184).

It is not known when building work began. However, it is recorded that Saeki Kagehiro, a Shinto Priest, reported to the Imperial Court that he reconstructed the main shrine buildings in 1168: during this work the scale of the buildings was increased and the roofing of some was changed from shingles to Japanese cypress bark. This reconstruction, believed to have been financed by Taira no Kiyomori, the most powerful leader of the time, Set the Standards for subsequent reconstructions in both scale and composition. Kiyomori believed that he owed his successful record in the civil wars of Hogen and Heiji and his subsequent political promotion to his religious faith in Itsukushima-jinja, and the belief that the god of ltsukushima was a guardian deity of the Heike family deepened his veneration of the shrine, where he worshipped on every important political occasion of his life.

The reconstructed main shrine buildings were destroyed by fire in 1207 in the Kamakwa Period (1185-1332) and reconstructed eight years later, only to be burnt down once again in 1223. This time the reconstruction took longer, not being completed until 1241; the major surviving shrine buildings date from this reconstruction. From this time onwards, total reconstruction of the complex became too large a task and so buildings were reconstructed on an individual basis. During the Kamakuta Period the shrine was under the Patronage of the feudal government, but in the succeeding Muromachi Period (1333-1572) this came to an end.

Since ltsukushima-jinja was built by the sea, it suffered repeated damage from wind and flooding, but each time it was restored with the support of influential people at national and local level throughout the ages. The Otorii (large Shrine gate), Set in the sea, was especially vulnerable and was frequently reconstructed, most recently in 1875. New buildings were also added to the main compound, to create the present ensemble - the Gojunoto (five-storey pagoda) in 1407, the Tahoto (two-storey pagoda) in 1523, the Sessha Tenjin-sha Honden in 1556, and the MaSSha Hokoku-jinja Honden (Senjokaku) in 1587.

ltsukushima Island has an important commercial role in the Inland Sea by virtue of its position. By the late Muromachi Period (1233-1573) a market had been opened on the island, round which an urban area developed. A Buddhist temple was erected near the summit of Mount Misen, and this also attracted many pilgrims and visitors. The island lost the somewhat forbidding character as a sacred island reserved exclusively for the act of worship, that it had had in ancient times and became an open island possessing great beauty from its integrated landscape of religious buildings and natural features, so that by the middle of the Edo Period (1600-1866) it had become acknowledged as one of the Three Most Scenic Places in Japan (Aki no Miyaiima).

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation