Itsukushima

Last updated
Itsukushima
Native name:
厳島
Nickname: Miyajima
Miyajima Island.jpg
Itsukushima Island
Japan location map with side map of the Ryukyu Islands.svg
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Itsukushima
Hiroshima geolocalisation.svg
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Itsukushima
Geography
Location Inland Sea
Coordinates Coordinates: 34°16′32″N132°18′28″E / 34.27556°N 132.30778°E / 34.27556; 132.30778
Area30.39 km2 (11.73 sq mi)
Highest elevation535 m (1755 ft)
Highest point Mount Misen
Administration
Japan
Demographics
Population2000
This torii at the Itsukushima Shrine welcomes visitors to the island. Itsukushima Gate.jpg
This torii at the Itsukushima Shrine welcomes visitors to the island.
Overview of Miyajima / Itsukushima island in the Inland Sea from the east direction, Japan Miyajima island.jpg
Overview of Miyajima / Itsukushima island in the Inland Sea from the east direction, Japan

Itsukushima (厳島) is an island in the western part of the Inland Sea of Japan, located in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay. It is popularly known as Miyajima (宮島), which in Japanese means "Shrine Island". [1] The island is one of Hayashi Gahō's Three Views of Japan specified in 1643. Itsukushima is part of the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture. The island was part of the former town of Miyajima before the 2005 merger with Hatsukaichi.

Contents

Itsukushima is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [2] According to records, the shrine was established in the time of Empress Suiko. The warrior-courtier Taira no Kiyomori gave the shrine its present form. In 1555, Mōri Motonari defeated Sue Harukata at the Battle of Miyajima. Toyotomi Hideyoshi built a large building, the Senjō-kaku, on a hill above the shrine.

Itsukushima has a number of temples, including Toyokuni Shrine with a five-storied pagoda, [3] and Daiganji Temple - one of the three most famous Benzaiten temples of Japan. [4] The island is also famous for its upper hill side cherry blossoms and maple leaf autumn foliage. [5]

The island of Itsukushima, including the waters around it (part of Seto Inland Sea), lies within Setonaikai National Park. This sea is affected by strong tides. At low tide, the bottom of the sea is exposed past the island's torii. At high tide, the sea covers all the previously exposed seabed mud and fills areas underneath the shrine boardwalk.

Location and geography

An aerial view of the Itsukushima-jinja torii and the main island from the ropeway/hiking trails of Miyajima. A Miyajima view Itsukushima Shrine.jpg
An aerial view of the Itsukushima-jinja torii and the main island from the ropeway/hiking trails of Miyajima.

Itsukushima is mountainous and sparsely settled. It has an elementary school and a middle school. There are no traffic signals. It is rural and mountainous, only 30.39 square kilometres (11.73 sq mi), and has a population of about 2000. There are no cities, only small towns with simple houses and privately owned shops. The islanders work hard to preserve the forests and respect nature.

Frequent ferry services, operated by JR West (JR Miyajima ferry) and by Miyajima Matsudai Tourist Ship, carry traffic between the island and the mainland at Miyajimaguchi. The trip takes about ten minutes. [6] There is an hourly express passenger ferry to Hiroshima harbour.

Miyajima's maple trees are renowned throughout Japan and blanket the island in crimson in the autumn. Momiji manjū, pastries filled with azuki jam or custard, are popular souvenirs and carry maple-leaf emblems. Many other varieties such as chocolate and cheese are available. [7] Because the island is seen as sacred, trees may not be cut for lumber. Deer roam freely. Deer are thought of as sacred in the native Shinto religion because they are considered messengers of the gods. They walk the streets of the city, not afraid of the tourists.

Autumn colours on Miyajima Island Japan Autumn colours on Miyajima Island Japan.jpg
Autumn colours on Miyajima Island Japan

The shamoji, a style of wooden paddle used to serve cooked rice without impairing the taste, is said to have been invented by a monk who lived on the island. The shamoji is a popular souvenir, and there are some outsized examples around the shopping district.

The peak of Mount Misen, at 535 m, is the highest point on the island. [8] Miyajima Ropeway carries visitors to within a 30-minute hike to the top. There are several sites related to the historic Buddhist priest and founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師) (774–835), including Daishō-in, near the top. [9]

The island contains the Miyajima Natural Botanical Garden (宮島自然植物実験所, Miyajima Shizen Shokubutsu Jikkensho) on its north coast.

People often take the short ferry ride from mainland Japan to pray at Miyajima’s shrines and to marvel at the beauty of its forests. Shrines on the island include Senjokaku (Toyokuni Shrine), Five-storied Pagoda, Two-storied Pagoda, Kiyomori Shrine, and Omoto Shrine. [10]

Shrines and temples

Note that in Japan, the term "shrine" implies a Shinto religious structure and "temple" implies a Buddhist one.

Itsukushima Shrine

Miyajima is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社, Itsukushima-jinja) which is a Shinto shrine. It is known for its "floating" torii gate. [11] The historic shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of the National Treasures by the Japanese government.

Daiganji Temple

Daiganji Temple in Miyajima Daiganji Temple (Miyajima) - DSC02249.JPG
Daiganji Temple in Miyajima

Next to the Itsukushima Shrine is Daiganji Temple, dedicated to Goddess Benzaiten as well as three Buddhas important to Shingon Buddhism. [4] Benzaiten Goddess in Japan has been traced to Goddess Saraswati of Hinduism in India. [12] She is the Goddess of eloquence, music, arts, wealth and knowledge. The three Buddha in the temple are Gautama Buddha, Wisdom Buddha and Mercy Buddha.

Daiganji Temple is one of the three most famous Benzaiten Temples in Japan, along with Enoshima Benzaiten (Kanagawa) and Chikubujima Benzaiten (Shiga). The Benzaiten is opened to the public only once every year on June 17. On this day, Miyajima holds a big festival, and people of the region visit the temple to offer their prayers. [13]

The precise date for the first construction of Daiganji Benzaiten temple is unclear. It was reconstructed around 1200 AD in the Kamakura period. The construction date of Itsukushima-jinja and Daiganji temple is estimated to be 6th century or later, and the existence of Itsukushima-jinja is confirmed by early 9th century by ancient Japanese texts. The Nihon Koki confirms the sacredness of these Miyajama structures during the Heian Period (794-1184). [2]

Daishō-in Temple

Daishō-in is a historic Japanese temple on Mount Misen, the holy mountain on the island. It is the 14th temple in the Chūgoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage and famous for the maple trees and their autumn colors. It is also called "Suishō-ji". As the headquarters of the Omuro branch of Shingon Buddhism, it is the most important temple of Miyajima. The temple was the administrator of the Itsukushima shrine before Meiji Restoration forbade (Shinbutsu bunri) syncretism (Shinbutsu-shūgō) between Shinto and Buddhism in 1868. [14]

Senjokaku (Toyokuni Shrine)

Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Senjo-kaku overlooks Taira no Kiyomori's Itsukushima Shrine MiyajimaSenjokaku7474.jpg
Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Senjō-kaku overlooks Taira no Kiyomori's Itsukushima Shrine

Senjokaku (lit. "pavilion of 1000 mats") is the largest structure at Miyajima Island as the name implies. Toyotomi Hideyoshi started construction of Senjokaku as a Buddhist library in which the chanting of Senbu-kyo sutras could be held for fallen soldiers. [15] Hideyoshi died in 1598 and the building was never fully completed. Originally, Amitabha Buddha and two Buddhist saints, Ānanda and Mahākāśyapa, were enshrined in the structure until the Meiji reformation. when the structure was converted into a Shinto shrine dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Numerous votive picture tablets that had been hanging in the Itsukushima Shrine buildings until the Meiji era, have been hung on the walls inside the hall.

Five-storied Pagoda (Gojunoto)

Five-Tiered Pagoda at Itsukushima Shrine Five-Tiered Pagoda (Miyajima).jpg
Five-Tiered Pagoda at Itsukushima Shrine

The nearby Five-storied Pagoda constructed in 1407 (thus predating Senjokaku) enshrined Yakushi Nyorai Zazo, the Buddha of Medicine said to have been made by Kobo Daishi himself, accompanied by Fugen Bosatsu (Mercy Buddha) and Monju Bosatsu (Wisdom Buddha). The three images were moved to the Daiganji Temple during the Meiji reformation.

See also

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Mount Misen

Mount Misen is the sacred mountain on Itsukushima in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, Japan, and is the highest mountain on the island at 535 m; it is situated within the World Heritage area of Itsukushima Shrine.

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Miyajima (宮島) may refer to:

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Toyokuni Shrine (Kanazawa)

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Akihasan Hongū Akiha Jinja

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Japanese Buddhist architecture

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Hōgon-ji

The Hogon-ji Temple is located on the sacred Chikubu Island in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. It is part of a temple complex on the revered island. It is a Buddhist temple dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten. Also, it is said to have first been built in 724 CE under the order of Emperor Shōmu. The temple has been rebuilt a few times over the years, with a major rebuilding around 1602 CE by the Japanese court officials Toyotomi Hideyori and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The temple looks to be of Amida style architecture. The temple's gate is originally from the Toyokuni Shrine in Kyoto, but was moved to Chikubu Island during the renovations in 1602. The artwork on the temple's gate has features reminiscent of the Momoyama Period.

The Three Great Shrines of Benzaiten (日本三大弁天) are a group of Japanese shrines dedicated to the worship of the goddess Benzaiten. During the Meiji Era's separation of Shinto and Buddhism the veneration of the Buddhist water-goddess Benzaiten was replaced by the veneration of the Munakata sanjojin, the three Shinto goddesses of the sea. The official veneration of Benzaiten was moved to separate Buddhist temples. They are traditionally enumerated as follows:

References

  1. Miyajama
  2. 1 2 Itsukushima Shinto Shrine UNESCO
  3. Toyokuni Shrine (Senjokaku) / Goju-no-to
  4. 1 2 Daiganji Kikyozan Hokoin (Buddhist temple)
  5. Miyajama Cherry Blossoms and Fall Foliage
  6. 宮島自然散策マップ [Miyajima Nature Walk Map](PDF) (in Japanese). Miyajima Tourist Association&Gimmick. 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2020. 宮島と宮島口を約10分で結びます。(Miyajima and Miyajimaguchi are about 10 minutes apart.)
  7. "Momiji Manju: A Snack Worthy of Miyajima". All About Japan. All About Japan. 22 May 2016. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  8. "弥山(みせん)とは [About Misen]". コトバンク (in Japanese). The Asahi Shimbun Company. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  9. "About Miyajima". Visit Hiroshima. Hiroshima International Tourism Association. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  10. "Other Shrines - Sightseeing Spots". Miyajima Tourist Association. Miyajima Tourist Association. 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  11. Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric (2005). "Itsukushima-jinja" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 407.
  12. Catherine Ludvik (2001), From Sarasvati to Benzaiten, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Toronto, National Library of Canada; PDF Download
  13. Itsukushima Benzaiten Festival
  14. Miyajima Misen Daiso-In Temple, Official Publication, http://www.galilei.ne.jp/daisyoin/
  15. Quiet charms of Miyajima island, Neena Mittal, The Straits Times, FEB 14, 2016


Three Views of Japan
Amanohashidate Matsushima Itsukushima
Amanohashidate view from Kasamatsu Park01s3s4410.jpg Matsushima miyagi z.JPG Itsukushima torii distance.jpg
Ferries and boats for Miyajima (Itsukushima Shrine)
JR Miyajima Ferry Miyajima Matsudai Kisen First Beach Aqua Net Hiroshima