Admire the Beauty of These Top 5 Japanese Shrines with Floating Torii Gates
A torii (an archway or gate to a shrine) represents the boundary between the world of humans and the world where deities live. There are plenty of shrines scattered throughout Japan, and their torii gates come in different shapes, sizes, and locations. This article will introduce some shrines in Japan that are home to floating torii.
1. Oarai Isosaki Shrine (Ibaraki)
Oarai Isosaki Shrine, located in the Ibaraki town of Oarai-machi, boasts an extremely long history as it was built in 856. It enshrines the deities Onamuchi no Mikoto and Sukunahikona no Mikoto, who are said to have created the country of Japan. This shrine draws many worshipers, as it is believed to bring good luck, ward off evil, keep families safe, and give other benefits.
It is filled with wonderful attractions, such as its honden (main shrine) and haiden (worship hall), which have been designated as Important Cultural Properties of Ibaraki, as well as one of the largest torii in the Kanto region!
The most recommended sight in this shrine is the Kamiiso Torii, which stands on a rock jutting out into the Kashima-Nada sea. It is said to be the place where the enshrined deities Onamuchi no Mikoto and Sukunahikona no Mikoto descended to earth. It’s really no wonder, then, that the sight of waves pounding against the reef where the torii stands is so beautiful that it looks almost divine.
They say that the sunrise is especially gorgeous at this spot. When the light of the sun slowly rising above the horizon shines on the surface of the water, it creates a path of light. If you visit, try to wake up earlier than usual so that you can etch that special view into your memory.
Access: Approx. 16 minutes by bus from Oarai Station on the Kashima Rinkai Railway’s Oarai Kashima Line
2. Kuzuryu Shrine (Kanagawa)
The torii of Kuzuryu Shrine's main shrine stands quietly on the water of Lake Ashi in the famous sightseeing spot of Hakone.
Kuzuryu Shrine is known as a power spot that brings luck to marriage and matchmaking. An old legend has it that the Buddhist priest Mangan Shonin banished the Kuzuryu, the evil nine-headed dragon of Lake Ashi, and as a result it started being worshiped as the guardian deity of the lake.
In addition to marriage and matchmaking, praying at this shrine is also believed to grant worshipers good luck and prosperity, financial protection, and success in business.
The main shrine's monthly festival, which is held on the 13th of every month from 10:00 am, expresses gratitude to the enshrined deity and makes wishes for the future; these are attended by many worshipers. On the day of the festival, the special sightseeing boat Kuzuryu Jinja Sanpaisen (fare: 1,500 JPY) departs from Motohakone Port, so you can also enjoy cruising along Lake Ashi.
Tucked in the middle of a forest with lush greenery, the vermilion-painted shrine is enveloped in an atmosphere that is so peaceful that just being there will calm you down and refresh your mind and body.
Access: Approx. 25 minutes by boat from Motohakone Port; approx. 20-minute walk from The Prince Hakone Lake Ashinoko
3. Shirahige Shrine (Shiga)
Facing Lake Biwa, which is the biggest lake in Japan in terms of area, Shirahige Shrine is the head shrine of all Shirahige shrines in Japan. It is said to be the oldest shrine in Omi (present-day Shiga), and the shrine’s history even claims that it was built about 2,000 years ago! The deity enshrined here is Sarutahiko no Mikoto.
The shaden (main building of the shrine) was renovated into its current structure at around the end of 16th century, while the present-day honden, designated as a national Important Cultural Property, was built in 1603.
Known as the deity of longevity or long life, the deity enshrined here is also said to grant prayers for marriage and matchmaking, childbirth, good fortune, academic achievement, road safety and a safe voyage.
This shrine is also called "Omi no Itsukushima (Itsukushima Shrine of Omi)" because its massive vermilion-lacquered torii floating on Lake Biwa, rising from the lake against the backdrop of Okinoshima Island, resembles that of Hiroshima's famous Itsukushima Shrine (see below).
You are guaranteed absolutely impressive and beautiful scenery every time you visit, but the one thing that stands out here is the view during sunrise. The contrast between the sun rising while shining a light that makes the surface of the lake sparkle and the great torii is breathtakingly beautiful.
Access: Approx. 5 minutes by car from Omi-Takashima Station on the JR Kosei Line
4. Itsukushima Shrine (Hiroshima)
Itsukushima Shrine, one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Japan, has a long history as it is said to have been built in 593. The island itself is this shrine’s object of worship, so the main shrine building was built in its current location to avoid hurting the island. The floating shrine buildings are connected by corridors and were built in 1168.
The great torii at this shrine is the eighth-generation torii, last rebuilt in 1875. It is the biggest and tallest among all the wooden torii gates in Japan that are designated as national Important Cultural Properties. Among Japan's floating torii, Itsukushima Shrine's vermilion-colored torii is the first that comes to mind for many people.
The Shinden-zukuri shrine buildings and great torii stand where the tides ebb and flow, a unique setup in Japan. Prepare to be captivated by the unparalleled beauty of the view that is created by the blue sea, vermilion-painted shrine buildings, and Mt. Misen towering behind them.
The Three Deities of Munakata, which are enshrined here, are said to be the deities of the sea, water, transportation, wealth, and arts, and they bestow such benefits as traffic safety, financial fortune, good luck, and success in love.
Access: Approx. 10 minutes by ferry from Miyajimaguchi Pier, located next to Miyajimaguchi Station on JR West and Hiroden-Miyajimaguchi on the Hiroshima Electric Railway
*The great torii is currently under renovation.
5. Ouo Shrine (Saga)
Facing the Ariake Sea, the town of Tara in Saga’s Fujitsu District is known as the “town where you can see the gravitational pull of the moon" since the difference between high and low tide can be as much as 6 m. The hottest scenic spot in Tara is the floating torii of Ouo Shrine.
Ouo Shrine and its underwater torii are believed to have been built roughly 300 years ago, carefully enshrining the deity that protects the sea. Even today, it is revered by people who pray for safety at sea, including local fishermen who wish for a good catch.
During high tide, the three torii gates standing in the Ariake Sea are submerged in seawater up to the top of the torii gates, enveloping the entire area in a magical aura. The gates are made of wood, so they are quick to decay because they are underwater. For this reason, they apparently must be rebuilt every 30 years or so.
During low tide, you can pass through the torii gates and even go on a stroll around the area.
The shrine and its torii look different depending on the time of day and season, so you are bound to enjoy the experience whenever you visit. So, try to visit several times and find the scenery you like the most.
Access: Approx. 10-minute walk from JR Tara Station
The floating torii gates featured in this article create different images, depending on the season and time of day you visit. If you find a place you like, try to look for your own special scenery there.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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