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Okinoshima: The Universal Value of Japan's Sacred Heritage

a World Heritage Nomination

  • Book
  • Nov 2024
  • Latest edition


Part of the book series: SpringerBriefs in Archaeology (BRIEFSARCHAE)

Part of the book sub series: SpringerBriefs in Archaeological Heritage Management (BRIEFSARCHHERIT)

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About this book

When Okinoshima was placed on Japan's tentative list for World Heritage designation in 2009, an unprecedented amount of new research into the archaeological and historical materials associated with this exceptional complex of sites was generated. This book provides an overview and sample of this research, and explores the significance and impact that such a targeted program of research can have on understanding a potential World Heritage Site both archaeologically as well as in management terms. 

The tiny island of Okinoshima, which lies in the Genkai Sea off the coast of northern Kyushu in western Japan, is an extraordinary place that deserves wider recognition in both global archaeology and international heritage management. It is believed to have controlled the important shipping lanes between the Japanese archipelago and the Korean peninsula from the 4th to 10th centuries AD.

The island is also notable for being surrounded by secrecy and taboo for it was the sacred home and embodiment of the three jealous Munakata deities (three sisters mentioned in ancient texts, latterly enshrined in the Munakata Grand Shrine and on Okinoshima). Most of the more than 80,000 objects known from archaeological investigations originally had been deposited as offerings to the Munakata deities between the 4th and 10thcenturies AD. All of these objects are now designated as National Treasures by the Japanese government.


  • historical overview of Japan and East Asian relationships
  • sacred seascapes in the Genkai Sea
  • Munakata Grand Shrine of Kyushu
  • cultural landscapes interest of UNESCO
  • National Treasures in Japanese culture
  • development of Shintoism
  • relationship between heritage and religion
  • World Heritage status and additional tourism in the region

Authors and Affiliations

  • University of East Anglia, Centre for Japanese Studies, Norwich, United Kingdom

    Simon Kaner

About the author

Dr Simon Kaner is Head of the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures and Director of the Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. He is a member of the International Expert Committee on the Nomination of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region for UNESCO World Heritage status, and has written two long papers on Okinoshima and the archaeology of religion, commissioned by Fukuoka Prefecture.

An archaeologist specialising on the prehistory of Japan, he has taught and published on many aspects of European and East Asian archaeology. He has a long-standing interest in cultural heritage issues, and in a previous job was Secretary of the Association of Local Government Archaeology Officers (ALGAO) in England.

He is Co-Editor of the Journal of Japanese Archaeology. He is Research Fellow at the Japanese Section, Department of Asia at the British Museum, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge.

Bibliographic Information

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