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Munakata Taisha Shrine

宗像大社

Located in Munakata City in Fukuoka Prefecture, Munakata Taisha Shrine, easily recognizable thanks to its distinct golden roof, is one of Japan's oldest and most sacred shrines. Munakata Taisha Shrine represents three separate Shinto shrines, which altogether, are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The three shrines are Hetsu-gu (located on Fukuoka's mainland), Nakatsu-gu (located on Oshima) and Okitsu-gu (located on Okinoshima, 50 kilometers from the shore). Three sisters and Shinto goddess, Ichikishima Hime, Tagitsu Hime and Tagori Hime, are enshrined at each of the three shrines. They are said to be protective of travelers. Due to this belief, the shrines are commonly visited by locals and travelers for prayer for safety during travel. Hetsu-gu and Nakatsu-gu are open to the public, while Okitsu-gu, the holiest of the three shrines located on the so-called "forbidden" island of Okinoshima, is kept off-limits to visitors except for Shinto priests. During the latter half of the 4th century through the 9th century, Okinoshima was considered a sacred place to pray for safe sea travel and trade. As such, it became the home of more than 80,000 relics, many of which are still present on the island thanks to it being restricted to visitors. Those relics have been designated as a national treasure. Some of them can be viewed at the Shinpokan Museum, a treasure house within the Munakata Taisha Shrine that houses thousands of artifacts unearthed on Okinoshima and in the surrounding area.

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