Saturday, March 12, 2016

The "floating" torii (or gate) in the bay in front of the Itsukushima Shrine in Japan, at low tide.

A torii ("bird abode") is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. The presence of a torii is the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines. They are also a common sight at Japanese Buddhist temples, where they stand at the entrance to the temple's shrine (the "chinjusha") and are usually very small.

Torii are traditionally made from wood or stone, but can also be made from reinforced concrete, copper, stainless steel, or other materials. They can be either unpainted or painted. If painted, the color is invariably vermilion with a black upper lintel. The simplest torii are just two posts (hashira) and a crosspiece of some sort (a rope or bar, known as a kasagi). On most torii, the kasagi is a double-lintel, with the lower portion somewhat smaller than the upper. Sometimes, a supporting lintel (shimaki) is placed beneath the kasagi. When the kasagi is curved upward slightly, the curve is known as the sorimashi. A second crossbeam (the nuki) may be added below the kasagi or shimaki. The nuki is usually held in place with large, visible wedges known as kusabi, although these may be purely ornamental today. A central strut (the gakuzuka) may be added between the upper lintel and the nuki. The gakuzuka may carry a tablet bearing the name of the shrine. The hashira rest on a white stone ring (the kamebara, or daiishi). A decorative black sleeve (the nemaki) may cover this base.

Torii with curved upper lintels are known as myōjin torii.

When a ring (daiwa) is added to the top of the hashira, the torri is known as a daiwa torii.

Daiwa torii are sometimes reinforced by adding two square columns perpendicular direction of the kasagi, and tied to the hashira by nuki. There are a number of names for this kind of torii: yotsuashi torii, gongen torii, chigobashira torii, and ryōbu torii. The last seems the most used.

The Itsukushima Shrine is a myōjin daiwa ryōbu torii.

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