Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima

多宝塔より厳島神社を臨む (Itsukushima Shrine in spring)

多宝塔より厳島神社を臨む (Itsukushima Shrine in spring)

            At the first sight of the lacquered red arcades of Itsukushima Jinja against a backdrop of the green forests of Mt. Misen and reflecting in the blue waters of the Inland Sea, it becomes clear why the Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima is considered one of the three most beautiful locations in Japan. It has a long history as a sacred spot, with the first shrine built on the site in 593 by Saeki Kuramoto. It has been destroyed multiple times by fire and typhoons, but the present main building has been in place since 1571. Now it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

island Miyajima Itsukushima shrine

island Miyajima Itsukushima shrine

            Itsukushima Shrine consists of 37 buildings and structure in the inner complex and 19 in the outer, including covered arcades, bridges, stages, purification halls, and small shrines as well as the main hall. The main deity worshipped there is the goddess of the ocean, and it is notable that the focus object, a mirror, is on display where the public can see, and not hidden in a special altar box. The architecture is also unique in many ways. The overall feel is the Shinden style used by Heian nobility for palaces, and the graceful, curving lines reflect that time period. However, the shrine is built over the water, so many details such as the assembly of the floorboards are found nowhere else. The structures require regular maintenance, especially the foundations sunk into the water, but they are beautifully preserved due to careful vigilance.

Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社)

Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社)

            Miyajima’s Itsukushima Shrine is wheelchair and stroller accessible, though parts of the flooring and access from the ferry are slightly uneven. It is open from 6:30 am to 6 pm, and there is a lovely nighttime lighting display visible from the outside until 11 pm. Admission is 300 yen. This is a highly recommended place for any visitor to Japan. Try to time your visit for high tide for the most beautiful views, because the shrine stands on a mud flat during low tide, which is not as attractive, but allows for a walk out to the Otorii.

Itsukushima shrine, Miyajima

Itsukushima shrine, Miyajima

For more information: http://www.miyajima.or.jp/english/spot/spot_itsukushima.html

Ohtorii (大鳥居)

Ohtorii (大鳥居)

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