Journal Article Managing “Buffer” : A Special Focus on the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine World Heritage Site, Japan

Yushi, Utaka

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine is the supreme example that represents the legacy of Japanese tradition as well as the beauty and harmony of nature, humankind and the gods. This oldest shrine, believed to be established in the 6th century, has maintained authentic religious practices by the Shinto masters and community over the centuries. The shrine was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1996. The shrine is observed floating above the sea during high tide and visitors have been fascinated by its beauty since the Japanese Edo period, when the Samurai rulers were allowed to issue travel permission to the population to travel to selected destinations, including Itsukushima. It was the beginning of a legacy of a prime tourist destination. Arguably, the circumstances of Itsukushima Shinto Shrine are encroached on by residential and commercial districts which accommodate over 3.5 million annual visitors, and the authorities and industrial sector giving more encouragement to the tourism industry after the site's World Heritage listing. Furthermore, the geographical setting and cosmology of Itsukushima Shinto Shrine is not limited to the island territory. There is a holy axis from the shrine that crosses the channel and reaches to the mainland where most of the hilly areas are occupied by residential, commercial and industrial land uses. Itsukushima Shinto Shrine exists peacefully, it is even said that holiness and contemporary needs have co-existed within this particular enclave. However, due to recent global warming, the sensitive geographical setting of the shrine is facing greater threats. In recent years, Itsukushima has suffered ever more serious damage by natural disasters never observed before. This paper intends to provide a broader perspective, connecting both protected property and surrounding geographical territory for future heritage site management.

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