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Munakata Taisha In Fukuoka, A World Heritage Site With Ancient Roots

Munakata Taisha In Fukuoka, A World Heritage Site With Ancient Roots

Fukuoka 2019.05.14 Bookmark

Munakata Taisha in Fukuoka, a revered shrine with a history dating back to ancient times, is famous for its charms for the protection of travelers. Learn more about the highlights and mythical background of this impressive World Heritage site.

Translated by Jelena Kitamura

Written by Norihisa Hasegawa

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Munakata Taisha Shrine - Fukuoka's Famous World Heritage Site

Munakata Taisha

Picture courtesy of Munakata Taisha Shrine

In Japan, those who have deep wishes often visit a shrine. It is believed that Shinto deities listen to the people's sincere wishes, be it business-related, love-related, or something else.

Munakata Taisha, the great shrine of Munakata City in Fukuoka, is famous for answering prayers related to travel safety. This magnificent shrine is mentioned in Japan's oldest history chronicles - "Kojiki" ("Records of Ancient Matters") and "Nihon Shoki" ("The Chronicles of Japan"), which were compiled in the eighth century.

A shrine with an impressive tradition of beliefs that stand at the core of Japanese spirituality, Munakata Taisha preserves thousands of precious artifacts from ancient times. In 2017, it has been designated a World Heritage site within the Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region.

Munakata Taisha - The Main Features of the Shrine

Munakata Taisha

Picture courtesy of Munakata Taisha Shrine

Munakata Taisha enshrines the Munakata Sanjin, the three deities of Munakata. According to the ancient chronicles, these three deities are the daughters of Amaterasu Oomikami, the most celebrated deity in the Shinto pantheon.

Actually, each of the three goddesses is enshrined in a different shrine within the Munakata Taisha complex: Okitsumiya, Nakatsumiya, and Hetsumiya. The name "Munakata Taisha" refers to all three shrines together.

It is said that, originally, this shrine protected sailors on their voyages. With the spread of the automobiles and other transportation vehicles, people started praying for traffic safety in general. Munakata Taisha became known as the protector of travelers. The word has spread even outside Japan, so the shrine is often visited by travelers from various countries.

A Visit to Munakata Taisha's Hetsumiya Shrine

古代の信仰が伝わる世界遺産:九州・福岡の「宗像大社」へ行こう

Picture courtesy of Munakata Taisha Shrine

First, we would like to introduce the main hall (honden) of the Hetsumiya Shrine, where the main deity is enshrined.

Okitsumiya and Nakatsumiya, the other two shrines in the Munakata Taisha complex are located on islands so they may be a bit difficult to reach. In order to visit all three shrines of Munakata Taisha, one would have to cross the sea to get to the designated places, which could be quite a challenging adventure.

On the grounds of Hetsumiya, you'll be able to find to shrines that represent Okitsumiya and Nakatsumiya, which are comparatively difficult to reach.

These two shrines that represent the sister shrines of Hetsumiya are called Teinigu (The Second Shrine) and Teisangu (The Third Shrine).

If you would like to visit Teinigu and Teisangu, follow the Takamiya path found by the main shrine hall. It is a lovely and tranquil path with greenery along the way. You will surely enjoy your five-minute walk to the two shrines.

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It would be a pity for those who cannot pay a visit to the original shrines to miss the chance to see their replicas. In the picture above, the shrine on the right is Teinigu and the one on the left is Teisangu.

Takamiya - Munakata Taisha’s Sacred Ceremony Site

Munakata Taisha In Fukuoka, A World Heritage Site With Ancient Roots

The most important place on the grounds of Munakata Taisha, and the one we strongly recommend visiting, is the Takamiya Saijo (Takamiya ceremony site).

Because it is a sacred place, it is usually guarded by a fence so that no one can enter.

Munakata Taisha In Fukuoka, A World Heritage Site With Ancient Roots

It might not stand out through anything at first sight, but wait until you hear the legend about it! It is believed that this is the place where the three deities of Munakata Taisha have descended upon. Various ceremonies and rituals have been held at this spot recreating the moment when the three deities made their appearance here.

These rituals are still being held each October. It is the only time when visitors to the shrine are allowed to enter the sacred ceremonial site of Takamiya.

Warifu-mamori Charms - Great Souvenirs from Munakata Taisha

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You might notice these small wooden plates around the Takamiya ceremonial site. They are called warifu-mamori, and they are a type of Shinto talismans.

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Two separate wooden plates that are bound together to form a warifu-mamori charm.

What makes them truly exceptional is their peculiar use. First, you have to write down your name and the age on the front, then you should write your wish on the back of the lucky charm.

Next comes the magical spell. You break the charm into two by separating the two halves so that you can leave one at the shrine and take the other one with you. In fact, you should attach it to your bag or somewhere else so that you keep it with you wherever you go.

It's as if you’ve entrusted your wish with the deity and left half of the charm as a “reminder”! What do you think?

This is a very rare type of Shinto talisman that you won't be able to find anywhere else. You can get it for your loved ones as a unique souvenir, or for yourself to pray for a safe trip. Either way, it will be a precious, deeply meaningful keepsake of your visit to Munakata Taisha Shrine.

For Love-Related Wishes, Visit the Twin Oak

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A fascinating sight might catch your attention on your way back to the main shrine hall from the ceremonial site of Takamiya. Behold the twin oak tree!

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No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you – those really are two tree trunks that gradually became one as they grew taller.

As charming and miraculous as it sounds, it does suggest the image of a couple becoming one upon entering into marriage, which is why this tree is said to bring good fortune to married couples and strengthen the bond between lovers.

Visit Munakata Taisha, Fukuoka's Sacred Shrine

古代の信仰が伝わる世界遺産:九州・福岡の「宗像大社」へ行こう

Visitors to Japan, or those just interested in this country, have surely heard about Fukuoka, a place famous for its stunning sights and delicious local food. Various types of ramen, tasty tarako (walleye pollack roe), and many other irresistible dishes are the pride of Fukuoka.

Now that you’ve learned the story of Munakata Taisha, how about visiting this sacred shrine when traveling to Fukuoka and get a blessing for your journey?

Munakata Taisha is not very difficult to reach. Just take the bus departing from Tenjin in Fukuoka and enjoy the sights along the ride to the Munakata Taisha-mae bus stop. After visiting this shrine, all of your further rides and trips should be very pleasant.

In cooperation with Munakata Taisha

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