Most visitors to Japan arrive with great enthusiasm toward Shinto sites, but after two or three shrine visits, they soon are experiencing a shrine burnout. Although tourists love to take pictures of the many “torii” (traditional Japanese gate) on the Shrine grounds, disappointment comes up, because from a foreign perspective expectation builds up to have something truly great shown at the center of the most holy part of the shrine. I hope with this series of Shinto explanations, I could help to overcome some of the common misconceptions of Shinto.
Usually a torii can be found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine, set there in order to show the transition from the sacred to the “normal surrounding”. Traditionally torii were made from wood or stone, but today sometimes these gates can be found in reinforced concrete, copper or stainless steel. Most likely torii first appeared latest by the mid-Heian period, because they were mentioned in a historical text written in 922.
The most famous shrine for a large number of torii is Fushimi Inari-Taisha in Kyoto, which must have thousands of gates. An Inari shrine is based on a fox-like mythological figure. Most likely a person, who has been successful in business often donates a torii to the Inari shrine in gratitude. Next time when you visit an Inari shrine, take your time to look for the bearing of the donor’s name.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)
Do note further related readings to be found at: