The founding of the three shrines

In the second half of the 7th century, open-air rituals similar to those conducted on Okinoshima began to be performed also at Mitakesan ritual site on the island of Oshima and Shimotakamiya ritual site 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 Female Deities of Munakata. The oldest Japanese historical documents, the Kojiki and Nihonshoki, both of which were composed in the early 8th century, mention that the Munakata clan worshipped the three female deities at Okitsu-miya, Nakatsu-miya and Hetsu-miya.
Munakata Region in the Ancient Times. Illustrated by Yoko Kitano.
Munakata Region in the Ancient Times. Illustrated by Yoko Kitano.

Okitsu-miya of Munakata Taisha

Rituals heve been conducted a few times a year on Okinoshima after the ancient ritual sites. Shrine buildings of Okitsu-miya had been constructed by the middle of the 17th century, amidst the huge rocks where ancient rituals were performed.  Today a Munakata Taisha priest stays on the island in full-time ten-day shifts, offering a religious service each day at the shrine. Tagorihime-no-kami is enshrined there.

Okitsu-miya of Munakata Taisha
Shirine buildings of Okitsu-miya

Nakatsu-miya of Munakata Taisha

Mitakesan ritual site
Mitakesan ritual site
View of Okinoshima from the summit of Mt. Mitake
View of Okinoshima from the Oshima island

The shrine building of Mitake shrine was build on the Mitakesan ritual site, and the main hall of Nakatsu-miya on foot of Mt Mitake when the ancient rituals were no longer conducted. A path links the main hall with the Mitakesan ritual site on mountain's summit, together forming the sacred precinct of Nakatsu-miya. The current main hall was rebuilt in the early seventeenth century, and has been designated as a tangible cultural property of Fukuoka prefecture.

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

Hetsu-miya of Munakata Taisha

The open-air ritual site at Takamiya that was restored in the 20th century. Beneath it lies the ancient Shimotakamiya ritual site.
Takamiya Saijo
Aerial view of Hetsu-miya, Munakata Taisha

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 Female Deities of Munakata. The 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. The current main hall and worship hall are designated as important cultural properties. One part of the Shimotakamiya ritual site is a ritual area called Takamiya Saijo, where Shinto rituals are conducted in the open air.

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

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