Torii

The gates of entrance to Shinto shrines. In Shinto thought, the torii are thought to signify the border between earthly space and sacred space, and therefore in order to perform shrine rituals properly, believers should enter through the gates. Because they are of symbolic rather than physical or architectural importance, torii are often stand-alone structures unconnected to other shrine buildings. They generally consist of two horizontal beams supported by two cylindrical posts, and they are often painted red. Some torii stand by themselves and signify the separation between earthly space and the sacred realms of certain mountains, bodies of water, or other natural things and are not part of shrines. A variation on this theme is the so-called floating torii standing in Hiroshima Bay. Rising from the water, it guards the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, a renowned pilgrimage site. Devotees must pass through it by boat before visiting the shrine.

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