Itsukushima Shrine – Hatsukaichi, Japan - Atlas Obscura

Itsukushima Shrine

This Japanese national treasure was originally built in 593. 


Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine located on the island popularly called Miyajima, in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is dedicated to the three daughters of the Shinto deity of seas and storms, and is built on piers over the water of the Seto Sea because the island was originally thought to be too sacred for commoners to tread upon.

The 16-meter high camphor wood o-torii that stands in the water in front of the shrine, rebuilt most recently in 1875, is one of the most famous sights in Japan. The original shrine was constructed in 593 and has been rebuilt many times over the years. The present structure dates to the mid-16th century but follows a design completed in 1168 and funded by warlord Taira no Kiyomori.

A five-story pagoda next to the shrine, called Goju no to, was built in 1407 and serves as a Buddhist temple dedicated to Benzaiten, the goddess of eloquence, music, and wealth.

Because Itsukushima is considered sacred ground, no hospitals or cemeteries are allowed on the island. The small Miyajima deer are believed to have lived on the island for over 6,000 years, and are unafraid of humans, pestering tourists for food.

Know Before You Go

From Hiroshima or Iwakuni, take the JR train to Miyajimaguchi. Walk one block to the pier and take the JR ferry to Miyajima.

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