Japan: Fushimi Inari Torii
In the Kyoto prefecture, about 15 minutes from Kyoto city by train, sits the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine.
You can enjoy the story in photos at the bottom of this article.
I'm not particularly impressed with anything temple, church, shrine, or, in a word, worship related. So, evidently, I wasn't particularly impressed with this choice of location to visit from my better half and cicerone extraordinaire.
However, I've learned to be open minded in order to experience new things, enjoy different sights, expand my world view.
Boy, was this ever one of those occasions. My world was expanded all right, and so was my heart and all of my senses, particularly my sight!
Orange, vermillion, red
The torii are orange, although they are called red by locals and worshipers alike. Red is a color that signifies the positive and good in Japanese culture, like the green in western culture. To that effect, the Tokyo Stock Exchange signals ups with a red plus sign and number, while downs are represented by a green minus sign and a number.
A mesmerizing explosion of orange
The torii are doors, placed one after the other, creating a sort of tunnel in their course, which escalates up to the actual shrine.
The way up to the mountain, where the shrine is located, starts with two rows of torii. This first tunnel runs for about 600 or 700 meters, opening up in a little esplanade where the torii restart in a single row, forming a tunnel of about 4 kilometers long up to the shrine.
The torii cover at times a path and others stairs. After about 30 to 45 minutes up, depending on your stamina, one reaches the Yotsutsuji intersection, about half the way up. The sights from there are worth your trouble, believe me.
After Yotsutsuji, the way up becomes steeper, the torii decrease in number, and the tunnel effect diminishes. However, if you want to make it to the top, it's still a very nice hike which will take about 2 or 2,5 hours in all.
On the way up, all one can see is orange, orange, orange. Seriously, it's spectacular. On the way down, however, one can appreciate inscriptions on the torii. Those indicate by whom and when the donation was made.
I had never in my life seen anything like this before, and I can't envision seeing anything like it ever again. Ever since we were there, and now looking at the photos, I get goose bumps. It's truly that unique and special. From all the "man made tourist attractions" I've ever visited in my life, and I've visited many in the 5 continents, this one definitely takes the bill as top beautiful, mind blowing and singular.
Possibly, what attracted me the most about this man made attraction is the display of color, which is very rare in big sites, most especially in those related to "worship".
Some facts about Fushimi Inari Taisha
This is the primary shrine devoted to Inari, the Japanese spirit (kami) of fertility, rice, agriculture, foxes and industry. It seems Inari has been worshiped as far back as the 5th century, although most accounts seem to date Inari's worshiping at the founding of the shrine in the Inari Mountain in 711 AD.
The torii are donations, from individuals, families and companies, who thank Inari kami for their success, or wish to invoke Inari kami's favors. Inari, being the protector of agriculture and harvests, especially rice, signifies riches, well being and prosperity. Often, Japanese companies offer not only a tori but also sake barrels.
If one can't afford a big tori, there is the option to offer a small one, the intention is what counts.
Fushimi Inari Torii appeared in Memoirs of a Geisha (2005).
If you're ever in Japan, trust me, this is not only worth the visit, it's a MUST see.
A modest selection of photos
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