front view over the worship hall to the main sanctuary

view from underground chamber

rock chamber interior

Appropriate Proportion 


Go-Oh Shrine traces its origins back to the Muromachi (Ashikaga) period (1338-1573). In recent years, however, the structure had deteriorated considerably and was slated for reconstruction under the Naoshima House Project. Called in as artist-designer, I avoided existing shrine typologies and tried to recreate an imaginary architecture more in keeping with ancient Japanese Shinto worship.

Prior to shinmyo-zukuri, the first Shinto architectural style formalized inthe seventh century, animist worship is thought to have focused on sites in nature where some special quality or force was felt - ineffable “power places” - whether in giant trees or waterfalls or boulders. The ancient Japanese conceived of their kami or deities, as manifesting themselves only when humans purified their “power places” for them. Thus, my vision of Go-Oh Shrine started from the giant rock slob visited by the local kami

The shrine comprises three main parts: the Worship Hall, the Main Sanctuary, and the Rock Chamber. The massive rock slab completely cuts off the Worship Hall and the Main Sanctuary from the Rock Chamber; only the “stairway of light” joins the celestial and earthbound realms.

From the underground chamber, a concrete-walled passage leads to the mountainside. Visitors to the shrine first worship at the divine iwakura (stone seat) and shrine hall, then descend to the “ancient” underground chamber via the concrete passage, lastly taking in a view of the sea through the portal to the present on the way out.


- Hiroshi Sugimoto