A torii 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 sacred.
The presence of a torii at the entrance is usually perceived as the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines, and a small torii icon is representing them on Japanese road maps.
The oldest existing stone torii was built in the 12th century and belongs to a Hachiman Shrine in Yamagata prefecture.
The oldest wooden torii is a ryōbu torii at Kubō Hachiman Shrine in Yamanashi prefecture built in 1535.
Torii gates were traditionally made from wood or stone, but today they can be also made of reinforced concrete, copper, stainless steel or other materials. They are usually either unpainted or painted vermilion with a black upper lintel. Inari shrines typically have many torii because those who have been successful in business often donate in gratitude a torii to Inari, kami of fertility and industry. Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto has thousands of such torii, each bearing the donor’s name.
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