Japan Culture Lab

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How many torii gates are there in Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, and what are the history and meaning of torii? How much is one torii?

      2017/12/19

There are many torii (鳥居) gates in Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) shrine in Kyoto.

The highlight of Fushimi Inari Taisha is its famous “senbon torii (千本鳥居)”, the row of countless torii, and it is a big tourist attraction.

But do you know how many torii are there?

Let’s find out details about torii of Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine this time!

 

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What is Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine?


 

Fushimi Inari Taisha is sohonsha (総本社) or sohongu (総本宮),  the head of 30,000 inari (稲荷) shrines nationwide.

Inari shrine refers to a Shinto shrine to worship inarishin or inari no kami (稲荷神), the god inari.

Inarishin is one of the gods in Japan and is also called inari daimyojin  (稲荷大明神), oinari sama (お稲荷様), or oinari san (お稲荷さん).

 


 

It is also gosaijin (御祭神, a worshiped god) of Fushimi-Inari Taisha. Ukanomitama (宇迦之御魂), a god of agriculture who looks after the grain, had descended in Inariyama mountain (伊奈利山, Higashiyama mountain range in Kyoto) in February, Wado 4 (和銅, a Japanese era during the Nara period, 711 AD).

Since then during the passage of time, inari has been deeply revered by many people as “衣食住ノ太祖ニシテ萬民豊楽ノ神霊ナリ (a founder of food, clothing and shelter and a divine spirit of affluent life for all people)” and widely worshipped  throughout the country as a god for bountiful harvests, prosperity in business, safety and well-being of a family, traffic safety, and fulfillment of all other wishes.

 

How many torii are there in Fushimi-Inari Taisha?

The unit of counting torii is “ki (基)”.

Therefore you count “ikki (一基)” for one torii, “niki (二基)” for two, “sanki (三基)” for three and so on.

It is said that the number of torii in Fushimi Inari Taisha is as many as 10,000 from small ones that you can hold with one hand to big ones that you can pass through, but even Fushimi Inari Taisha itself does not know the exact figures.

 


 

Speaking of Fushimi Inari Taisha’s torii, its “senbon torii”, a tunnel of numerous vermilion torii, is very famous.

“Senbon torii” is believed to be made as a gateway to rhw world of gods from the world where we humans live, and the gates were dedicated by devotees during the Edo period (1603 – 1868).

You might think that there are a thousand torii from its name “senbon torii”, but there are around 800 in fact.

Although there are less than one thousand, “senbon” of “senbon torii” is not the accurate number but means “numerous” or “countless”.

 

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What is the history and meaning of torii?

The vermilion torii gates in Fushimi Inari Taisha were all dedicated by devotees.

The custom of dedicating torii had been spread during the Edo period to express gratitude for their wishes “came true”, or “toru” or “tootta” (pass through) in Japanese.

During the Edo period, Torii was supposed to be dedicated after the wish fulfilled.

At first people dedicated small torii, and then offered larger and larger torii every time their wish was fulfilled.

Nowadays, there are various reasons for dedicating torii such as wishes to be fulfilled, celebrations, corporate anniversaries, etc.

Torii is considered as kekkai (結界), a border between the world of gods and the world of human beings. Vermilion is regarded as a color to ward off evil spirits and has been used for many Shinto shrines and Bhuddist temples.

There are various theories about the history and origin of torii, and it still remains unclear.

There are some theories such as that it was brought from abroad (India, China, Israel, etc.), that it is related to Judaism, and the theory of Amanoiwato (天岩戸) from Kojiki (古事記, a book “Records of Ancient Matters” written in 712 AD).

 
-Theory that it is related to Judaism

The pronunciation of “trii” means “gate” in Aramaic language related to Hebrew.

It is also said that an entrance of an ancient Israeli building looks exactly like torii.

 


 
-Theory of Amanoiwato (天岩戸)

There is a legend that people put a bird on top of yadorigi (宿木, mistletoe tree) at the entrance of Amanoiwato (天岩戸) cave and tried to make it sing to let Amaterasu Omikami (天照大神, the goddes of the sun) out from the cave, after she shut herself up inside there and the whole country became dark as a result.

The etymology of torii is believed to be “to put a bird on the tree = tori ga iru (there is a bird)”.

 

 

Vermilion contains mercury, and it has been used as antiseptics for wood from long ago.

In Fushimi Inari Taisha, vermilion is regarded as a color representing fruitfulness, the power of inarishin (稲荷神) god.

 

How much does torii cost at Fushimi Inari Taisha?

At Fushimi Inari Taisha, you can dedicate torii.

Hatsuhoryo (初穂料, money offered to gods) differs depending on the size of torii and place to install.

No. 5 (15 cm diameter) · · · 175,000 yen

No. 6 (18 cm diameter) · · · 383,000 yen ~

No. 7 (21 cm diameter) · · · 482,000 yen ~

No. 8 (24 cm diameter) · · · 708,000 yen ~

No. 9 (27 cm diameter) . . . 826,000 yen ~

No. 10 (30 cm diameter) · · · 1,302,000 yen ~

 

 

It must be very hard to know the number of all torii in the premise, as Fushimi Inari Taisha is very big.

There was a person who actually counted all the torii in Fushimi Inari Taisha in 2010.

At that time, there were massive 3,381 ki of torii (although small ones were not even included).

Then how many torii are there now?  Probably no one knows the exact number as torii are repaired, newly installed, or removed everyday.

 

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