Torii, torii, torii!

You will not travel far in Japan before seeing a torii, a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance to a Shinto shrine.

They first appeared in Japan over a thousand years ago, the oldest existing stone torii having been built in the 12th century and belonging to a Hachiman Shrine in Yamagata prefecture.

Torii were traditionally made from wood or stone, but these days you will also find them made of reinforced concrete, copper, stainless steel or other materials. They are usually either unpainted or painted vermilion with a black upper lintel.  Inari shrines typically have many torii because those who have been successful in business often donate torii in gratitude to Inari, kami of fertility and industry. [1]

Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto has thousands of torii, each bearing the donor’s name.This is the best place to get your fix of torii.

Left or right?   It doesn’t really matter.IMG_3884A bit of stone thrown in for diversity.IMG_3896

Komainu are a pair of guardian dogs or lions often found on each side of a shrine’s entrance.  In the case of the Inari Shrines, they are foxes (see picture below) rather than dogs.IMG_3894One of many torii gates at the World Heritage Listed site at Nikko.IMG_3249A timber torii at Nikko.IMG_3253This one in a Tokyo park seems purely for decoration.IMG_3301A utilitarian torii in central Matsumoto, overshadowed by the ugliest edifice in the town.IMG_3590

A modern take on the torii gate?  The Mitsubishi shipbuilding shrineyard in Nagasaki.IMG_4199

One of the three top rated scenic views – and possibly the most photographed torii gate in the world? – in Japan.  Itsukushima Shrine is another World Heritage Listed site built over water and its associated torii gate appears to be floating on the water at high tide.  It is less than an hour’s train and ferry commute from Hiroshima.IMG_4272


Lining up to take a photo of the torii.  As one does in Japan.  IMG_4277

Be patient, your turn will come.


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