Itsukushima Shrine (Itsukushima Jinja) is located in the Miyajima Island. Miyajima Island is located in the southern shores of Hiroshiama city in the Chugoku Region. Itsukushima Shrine precincts and parts of the Miyajima Island are designated as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites in December of 1996. In 1643, a Confucian scholar called Shunsai Hayashi, wrote a book based on the experiences as he traveled throughout Japan on foot. In his book, he designated three locations, Matushima Island, Amanohashidate and Miyajima Island as the "Three Most Scenic Spots" in Japan. They are still considered as such even after hundreds of years later.
Miyajima Island and Itsukushima Shrine can be easily reached by a boat ride (Miyajima Ferry), available at the southern shores of Hiroshima City. Take the Hiroshima City Tram to this Miyajima Ferry Terminal.
Miyajima Island itself has been worshiped as a god since ancient times, as people have sensed the aura that surrounds the whole island. Due to this sense of awe of the island, the most prominent shrine was not constructed on land but on a seashore of the island in 593 AD.
Itsukushima Shrine Seal
The Itsukushima Shrine as it stands itself nowadays was built by Taira-no-Kiyomori, a powerful figure in the 12th century. His original construction laid the ground work for the magnificent collection of shrine buildings. The outstanding architectural arrangement of these buildings incorporates the Shinden style of the Heian period (794-1184), but its placement on the water, beautifully framed by the mountain in the background, is testimony to Kiyomori's extraordinary vision and achievement. Itsukushima Shrine stands among the most noteworthy accomplishments of the Heian period.
Itsukushima Shrine Precincts
The Itsukushima Shrine precincts includes seventeen shrine buildings, including the Main Hall, Worship Hall and Prayer Hall; three structures including the O-torii Gate (partially submerged in water), the Five-storied Pagoda and the Tahoto Pagoda, Six other buildings are designated as National Treasures.
The main Shrine hall, designated as a National treasure, is dedicated to the three Munakata goddesses, Ichikishima-hime, Tagitsu-hime and Tagori-hime. These three goddesses are worshipped as the gods of the sea, traffic safety, fortune and accomplishment. Kiyomore Taira defeated and expelled the Seto Inland Sea pairates and made a huge fortune, carrying on trade with China. He worshipped Itsukushima Shrine for the safe sailing of trade ships to and from China and Merchant ships in the Seto Inland Sea.
The O-Torii Gate of the Itsukushima Shrine is designated as national Important Cultural Property. It's about 16.6 meters in height and weighs about 60 tons.
The O-Torii Gate - One of the most photographed object in the World
Its roof, thatched with Japanese cypress bark, is 24.2 meters in length. The main pillers, which are 9.9 meters in circumference, are made of natural camphor trees, while the four supporting pillers are made of natural cedar. The present O-Torii, which is the eighth since the Heian period, was erected in 1875. The top tail of the torii has a hollow space and stones, the size of one's fist are put inside as a weight (7 tons in all). The gate stands under it's own weight. This partially submerged view with the back ground of Hiroshima city and the mountains is one of the most identified and photographed scene in the world. (Source: Shrine Brochures)
Here is a video of this magnificent Itsukushima Shrine: