The founding of the three shrines

In the second half of the 7th century, rituals similar to those conducted on Okinoshima began to be performed also at Nakatsu-miya on the island of Oshima and Hetsu-miya on the main island of Kyushu.
 At that time Munakata Taisha was established as these three sites, linked by a vast stretch of sea, for the worship of the Three Goddesses of Munakata.
 The cultural tradition of worshipping the island of Okinoshima has been passed down to the present time in the form of devotion to the three goddesses.
Illustrated by Yoko Kitano
Illustrated by Yoko Kitano

Okitsu-miya of Munakata Taisha

Munakata Taisha is a shrine that consists of three distinct worship sites—Okitsu-miya on Okinoshima, Nakatsu-miya on Oshima, and Hetsu-miya on the main island of Kyushu, all of which are located within a broad area that measures some kilometers in breadth.
 These are the living places of worship that are linked to ancient ritual sites.

No shrine buildings originally existed on Okinoshima, but those of Okitsu-miya had been constructed by the middle of the 17th century, amidst the huge boulders where ancient rituals were performed.
 The entire island of Okinoshima constitutes the sacred precinct of Okitsu-miya; with no permanent inhabitants until the 17th century, the island itself has long been the object of worship.
 Today a Munakata Taisha priest stays on the island in full-time ten-day shifts, offering a religious service each day at the shrine.

宗像大社沖津宮社殿
Shirine buildings of Okitsu-miya, located amidst huge boulders where ancient rituals were performed.

Nakatsu-miya of Munakata Taisha

Mt. Mitake ritual sites
Mt. Mitake ritual sites
View of Okinoshima from the summit of Mt. Mitake
View of Okinoshima from the summit of Mt. Mitake

By the 16th century, the Nakatsu-miya shrine buildings on the island of Oshima had been constructed at the foot of Mt. Mitake, upon the peak of which ancient rituals were performed.
 A path links the shrine buildings with the mountain's summit, together forming the sacred precinct of Nakatsu-miya.

Shrine buildings of Nakatsu-miy, located at the foot of Mt. Mitake, on a high plateau overlooking the sea.
Shrine buildings of Nakatsu-miya, located at the foot of Mt. Mitake, on a high plateau overlooking the sea.

Hetsu-miya of Munakata Taisha

By the second half of the 7th century, rituals similar to those performed on Okinoshima were carried out at the Mt. Mitake ritual site on the island of Oshima and the Shimotakamiya ritual site on the main island of Kyushu, both in the Munakata region.
 The oldest Japanese historical documents, the Kojiki and Nihonshoki, both of which were composed in the early 8th century, mention that the people in Munakata worshipped the Three Goddesses of Munakata at Okitsu-miya, Nakatsu-miya, and Hetsu-miya.
 Okinoshima corresponds to Okitsu-miya, Mt. Mitake on Oshima to Nakatsu-miya, and Shimotakamiya on Kyushu to Hetsu-miya, respectively, and the evidence shows that the inhabitants of Munakata indeed carried out these rituals dedicated to the three goddesses.
The open-air ritual site at Takamiya that was restored in the 20th century. Beneath it lies the ancient Shimotakamiya ritual site.
The open-air ritual site at Takamiya that was restored in the 20th century. Beneath it lies the ancient Shimotakamiya ritual site.
○○○○○○
Aerial view of Hetsu-miya, Munakata Taisha

The Hetsu-miya shrine buildings had been constructed by the 12th century at the latest, at the foot of the hill where the Shimotakamiya ritual site is located.
 Hetsu-miya is situated on the main island of Kyushu, near the Tsurikawa River, which was an inlet of the sea in ancient times.
 Hetsu-miya has become the central venue for Munakata Taisha's rituals, which are deeply connected to the sea, the river, and the Three Goddesses of Munakata.

Shrine buildings of Hetsu-miya, which have played a central role in the rituals of Munakata Taisha.
View of Hetsu-miya, Munakata Taisha

Back to
Top