Beautiful Treasures

On the premises of Munakata Taisha, a compound consisting of three Shinto shrines, there is a museum—the Shinpokan—displaying about 80,000 shinpo excavated in Okinoshima island that date back to between the 4th and 9th centuries. Each shinpo is a certified national treasure that was offered to the enshrined goddesses by successive emperors over 1,000 years ago. Time, however, has not diminished their glow.

In academia, shinpo are categorized as archeological artifacts and are mainly researched for their historical value. Despite having been crafted using the most advanced technologies of the time, these treasures have never been fully appreciated as works of art or craft. This is a shame, as these items possess a timeless beauty.

Beauty is a quality that defines all shinpo, irrespective of the era or location in which they were created. So, too, are the genuine passion and cutting-edge technologies that went into making them. Understanding shinpo requires more than historical knowledge; it also requires an artistic sensibility. This is why I decided to produce this book.

Yamamura Zentaro, who I commissioned to take the pictures in this book, has long had a fascination with the animism associated with giant rock formations and trees on shrine premises that predate the shrines themselves. His work demonstrates a pursuit of artistic beauty in nature—a quality that I believed was essential for this project.

The ancient praying grounds of Okinoshima were discovered in an area within a primeval forest that is full of giant rock formations. Artifacts dating back to the Jomon period (14,000 – 300 BC) have been uncovered here, suggesting the presence of human activity for over two thousand years. Although a small shrine was built on the island in the 17th century, researchers believe Shinto priests previously used the rock formations as a makeshift temple. This is why the artifacts uncovered here in the 1954 excavation were miraculously well-preserved, completely defying expectations that centuries of wind and rain would have severely damaged the artifacts. The ornamental items, in particular, were far more beautiful than the excavators had imagined. These treasures now lie exactly as they were found in the Shinpokan, untouched by human hand.

I would like to finish by thanking Mr. Yamamura from the bottom of my heart for the many trips he took to Munakata to photograph over one hundred shinpo preserved at Munakata Taisha. I hope this book fully conveys the level of passion and craftsmanship that went into ever y detail of these items— exemplary treasures crafted by our ancestors for the sole purpose of demonstrating their love for the gods they worshipped.

Munakata Taisha



Book Curation
Munakata Taisha
Zal Heiwa SETHNA (Soli Consultants, Inc.)
[p. 1, 4-5, 134-135]
  • World Heritage Division
  • Kyuryudo Art Publishing CO.,LTD.
山村善太郎 写真

Zentaro Yamamura


Born in 1943 in Tenma, Osaka. Graduated from Nihon Photography Institute in 1965 and worked at the photo room for the Mitsukoshi Osaka store. Later established an independent photo studio. At around 1990, left the commercial photo work to a successor, and began creations under the theme of France and Paris. Received the Order of Arts and Culture “Chevalier” from the French government in 1995. From around 2010, became interested in “Goshinboku In Everyday Lives” and began to shoot Iwakura at various locations in Japan. Member of the Japan Photographers Association (JPS).

宗像大社神宝館 写真

Munakata Taisha Museum

The Shinpokan is a three-story museum located in Munakata Taisha where about 80,000 national treasures are archived and exhibited, along with ancient documents, artifacts, and other historical items—all designated as Important Cultural Properties—in the possession of Munakata Taisha. These treasures—shinpo—were unearthed in Okinoshima island from 1954 to 1971 and are believed to have been offered to the gods in state rituals performed on the island from the 4th to 9th centuries. Although shinpo tend to be evaluated mostly for their historical value, each one is an object of beauty, with every detail demonstrating the techniques, cultures, and religious devotion of the people who crafted them.

Address: 2331 Tashima, Munakata, Fukuoka Prefecture
Phone: +81(0)940-62-1311
Website: http://www.munakata-taisha.or.jp/



“Beautiful Treasure to the Gods,” a Munakata Taisha Special Exhibition

Event Period
Saturday, September 19, 2020–Sunday, February 28, 2021
9:00 AM–4:30 PM (Entry permitted until 4:00 PM)
[The event period has been extended from Nov 23, 2020 to Feb 28, 2021]
Event Venue
Munakata Taisha Museum (Shinpokan Hall) (2331 Tashima, Munakata-shi, Fukuoka)
https://munakata-taisha.or.jp/ (Japanese)
Admission Fee (Goes to cooperation fund for
facility preservation)
¥800 for general admission/¥500 yen for high school and university students/¥400 for elementary and junior high school students

This vast amount of sacred treasures discovered on Okinoshima, which number 80,000, are all first-class articles from their respective period in Japanese history and were collectively designated as National Treasures. Currently, they are being exhibited as part of the Munakata Taisha Museum’s collection. These offerings dedicated to the gods in state-backed ceremonies conducted on Okinoshima not only have historical value, they also embody the sense of aesthetics of people in ancient Japan who pursued sacred beauty to offer to the gods, and could be termed the pinnacle of beauty without hesitation. This exhibition emphasizes the stunning fine details of these “beautiful treasures,” enabling visitors to gain a sense of the master techniques and spirit that lay within.
(Photographed by Zentaro Yamamura, professional photographer)

  • 「神々への美宝」写真2
  • 「神々への美宝」写真4
  • 「神々への美宝」写真3
  • 「神々への美宝」写真5

Event Flyer