Acclaimed by the Japanese as one of the country’s three most scenic views (Nihon Sankei), the Torii of Itsuku-shima shrine appears to float in the water. The warlord Taira no Kiyomori who provided the funds for the shrine, built the first torii in the bay in the 12th century.
The present structure, which is the eighth since the Heian period (749-1185), was erected in 1875. The O-Torii was designated as a Specially Preserved Building in 1899 and then as a National Important Cultural Property in 1963.
It is about 16 metres (50 feet) high and weighs around 60 tons. Its four-legged (yo-tsuashi) style provides stability and the roof, thatched with Japanese cypress bark, is 24.2 metres in length. The main pillars, which are each 9.9 metres in circumference, are made of natural camphor trees, while the four supporting pillars are made of natural cedar.
The gate is not buried deep into the sand but instead it stands by its own weight. The box shaped part under the gate is filled with around seven tons of stones, each as big as a human fist. Custom made wedges are driven into the intersections where the pillars and the roof meet, absorbing slight movements and helping to balance the pillars and roof. The sea level section is strengthened by pine stakes and the torii is impervious to weather, being able to resist the forces of typhooons and earthquakes.
The plate on the great torii was painted by the Arisugawa no miya Imperial Prince, Taruhito. He was a talented successor in a family of calligraphers, and was the ninth head of the family. He was also commander during the Busin war, the Seinan war and the Nissin war.
The sun and the moon are painted on the east and the west of the O-Torii roof. The northeasterly direction is considered to be the demon’s gate in Feng Shui; the painted sun is said to block this demon’s gate.
At low tide visitors can walk to the foot of the gate. During high tide it is possible to take a cruise or kayak under the beautiful vermillion torrii, which reflects on the water when lit up at night.
Visitors can find out the times of the tides at the Tourist Information Centre, near the ferry terminal.
- Miyajima Guide Map