A nihongo|torii|鳥居 is a traditional
Japanese gatecommonly found at the entry to a Shinto shrine, although it can be found at Buddhist temples as well. It has two upright supports and two crossbars on the top, and is frequently painted vermilion. Some torii have tablets with writing mounted between the crossbars. Traditionally, torii are made of wood or stone. In recent times, makers have started to use steel and even stainless steel. Torii mark the transition from the sacred (the shrine) to the profane (the normal world) (see Sacred-profane dichotomy).
Inari shrines typically have many torii. A person who has been successful in business often donates a torii in gratitude. The Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto has thousands of such torii.
The origin of the word "torii" is not known. One theory is that it was designed for birds to rest, as hinted by the
kanji, which may be derived from 鶏居 meaning 'chicken perch'. This is because in Shinto, birds are considered messengers of the gods. A second theory is that it is derived from the term "tōri-iru" (通り入る: pass through and enter).
Torii may have originated in India. [http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/ Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System (2001). "torii".] ] The Indian gateway archs, the
torana, reached East Asiawith the spread of Buddhism. [Encyclopedia Britannica (2008). "torii"] Some scholars hold that it derives from the torana gates at the Buddhist historic site of Sanchi(3rd century BCE - 11 century CE).Through Chinese influence the gates reached Japan.
Purpose of torii at Shinto shrines
Torii mark the entrance to
sacred spacein Japan. Passing underneath a torii on the way to visit a shrine is, along with washing one's hands and mouth with water, an act of sanctification and purification before approaching the kamito pray.
For this reason, people who are in a state of uncleanliness are not permitted to approach a Shinto shrine for prayer as their uncleanliness would defile the grounds. Examples of uncleanliness in the Shinto tradition include a woman who is
menstruatingor anybody who has lost a relative in the past yearFact|date=March 2008. When a Japanese person suffers a death in the family, he or she will go to Buddhist temples instead of a Shinto shrineto offer prayers for 1 year, including for the essential first visit of the new year, "Hatsumoude". Fact|date=March 2007
Similar structures can be found in Tai societies, and also exist within
Nicobareseand Shompenvillages. Compare also to torana, in Hinduand Buddhistarchitecture ( India, Nepal).
The torii is sometimes considered a symbol of Japan. For example, it is the symbol of the American 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division and other US forces in Japan. [ [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2003/10/mil-031006-afps01.htm DefenseLINK News: Revised Helmet Patch Immortalizes World War II Troops ] ]
With the strong relationship between Shinto shrine and Imperial family, a torii is built in front of the tombs of each Emperor.
* [http://english.tsukudo.jp/guide-gate.html Myojin Torii] en icon
*cite web | url=http://mmjarboe.com/historical.html | title=Historical Items about Japan | publisher=Michelle Jarboe| date=2007-05-11 | accessdate=2007-06-18
*cite web | url=http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.php?entryID=280 | title=Torii | work=Encyclopedia of Shinto | publisher=Kokugakuin University | date=2005-06-02 | accessdate=2006-10-10
*cite web | url=http://www.nyc24.org/2005/issue3/story3/torii.html | title=Torii-Gate | work=NYC24| publisher= Jim Higdon | date=2005| accessdate=2007-06-18
*cite web | url=http://humwww.ucsc.edu/torii_gate/ | title=Torii Gate | work=Humanities Department| publisher= University of California Santa Cruz |date= March 2006 | accessdate=2007-06-18
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