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Torii is a Japanese kind of a symbolic gate marking the line, at which you trespass from the profane to the sacred land. It is usually placed at an entrance to a Shinto (traditional Japanese religion) shrine. Similar symbolic gates may be found also in other Asian countries.JMA_Japan_077

Torii in general is made of two pillars and two horizontal bars. The construction may be however more complicated or a simpler one. A very simple torii may be made of only two pillars linked with a rope (called shimenawa). Shimenawa may be also an addition to the traditional construction. Torii may be made of wood, or stone, or concrete, or other materials. The most distinctive ones are those made of wood and painted with a red or orange tint.


The tint is in fact the so called vermilion. It contains mercury (mercuric sulfides), the size of which particles is decisive for the colour. The bigger the particles, the more reddish the tint. Only some parts of a torii like footing and/or the upper lintel are painted black. Many shrine or temple buildings in Japan are covered with vermilion, too.

There can be a couple or quite many of torii gates in a shrine. They can be of different sizes. Each torii may mark the trespassing point to the following another sacred space. They are sometimes put in rows, as well. When you go under a row of torii you feel basically like walking down a tunnel.


The most prominent example of torii put in rows that form long tunnels is the Fushimi Inari Taisha temple in Kyoto (called shorter Oinarisan temple, >>>). The temple buildings are organised around a mountain. The paths between different buildings located on its slope are covered by rows of torii. The torii were donated through ages by worshipers as a thank to Inari (its deity) for successful businesses or transactions, etc. To go under all of torii rows there, you have for almost two hours climb up and down the mountain.

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