Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Cultural Japan Asia And The Pacific Hiroshima Prefecture

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).