‘The Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region’ (5 sites composed of 8 assets) in Fukuoka Prefecture were officially added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 2017. The Okinoshima Island is located 60km off the western coast of Kyushu Island. A shrine named Okitsu-miya of the Grand Shrine of Munakata is located on this island. The island has been treated as a sacred precinct, and upholds ancient rules. For example, the whole island is off-limits.
The associated sites include Nakatsu-miya and Okitsu-miya Youhaisho (a viewing platform) on the Oshima Island, and Hetsu-miya in the mainland part of Munakata City – all these shrines are integrated into the Grand Shrine of Munakata, and the Shinbaru-Nuyama group of mounded tombs of the Munakata clan in ancient times in Fukutsu City. Three goddesses are enshrined at Okitsu-miya, Nakatsu-miya, and Hetsu-miya, respectively.
Historical sites on the Sacred Island of Okinoshima have been preserved virtually as they were, and all the records on the rituals which were performed from the 4th to the 9th centuries have been kept in good order. About 80,000 ancient ornaments such as bronze mirrors and gold rings were found on different ritual sites on the island. A large number of ruins and remains of the rituals in those years have been preserved in those shrines under the Grand Shrine of Munakata.
The history of the Sacred Island of Okinoshima and its associated sites mentioned above tells us that the Grand Shrine of Munakata not only concentrated on the religious, historical, and cultural activities at the local level, but also engaged in the national and religious activities exchanging with the Korean Peninsula and the Asian continent in close consultation with the Kingdom of Yamato in those ancient times.
I first visited Hetsu-miya of the Grand Shrine of Munakata, and went to the Oshima Island by ship. On the Oshima Island, I visited Nakatsu-miya, and I overlooked the entire island of Okinoshima, located 50km off the western coast of the island, from the Okitsu-miya Youhaisho (a viewing platform). I was delighted to be able to observe the Sacred Island of Okinoshima, which is now officially listed as the UNESCO World heritage site, as a person belonging to Fukuoka Prefecture. I also felt that my mind and body were purified, and thus, I am quite satisfied with this trip. I sincerely hope that many of the readers of my blog will visit the ‘Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites’.