This Shinto shrine’s gorgeous glass gateways are the only ones of their kind in all Japan【Photos】

Torii gates always have an elegant allure, but none quite like this shrine’s.

Sometimes, visitors to Japan have trouble differentiating Shinto shrines from Buddhist temples. The easiest way is to look for a torii, a gateway of two pillars connected by two crossbeams. If there’s a torii at the entrance, you’re in a shrine.

Torii are usually bright orange or red, but some are made of unpainted wood, like the torii at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine. Sometimes you’ll also find torii made out of gray stone. However, there’s only one place in Japan where you’ll see a torii that’s practically clear.

▼ To the extent that you can see something that’s see-through, anyway.

That’s the entrance to Jintoki Inari Shrine in Kanoya, a city in Kagoshima Prefecture on the southwestern island of Kyushu. While construction of the shrine finished in March, it hadn’t attracted much attention until this week when Japanese Twitter user @DJ_HARABO snapped and shared a photo of its glass torii, which quickly went viral for its unique beauty.

@DJ_HARABO isn’t the only shutterbug to have visited Jintoki Inari this summer, though. Other locals and travelers have been posting their own photos of the glass torii, which has a faint blue-green tint to it that almost makes it look like it’s made out of water, or even light, in some pictures.

The shrine actually has two glass torii. One is at the entrance to the shrine grounds, while the other is further back, standing in a pool traversed by a bridge that leads to the shrine’s administrative office.

Since the shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of agriculture, rice, and commerce, statues of foxes, the deity’s messengers, stand next to the torii, much like the ones seen at Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. Also like at Fushimi, there’s a long tunnel of wooden torii gates at Jintoku Inari, with roughly 100 of the structures leading from one of its glass torii to the other.

And if you’re thinking the whole place looks not only beautiful, but romantic too, you’ll be happy to know that Jintoku Inari is available as a venue for weddings and bridal photography.

As a matter of fact, Jintoku Inari’s glass gateway is so captivatingly elegant that we wouldn’t blame the shrine from anime Lucky Star, which is currently in the market for a new torii, if it decided to commission one for itself.

Shrine information
Jintoku Inari Shrine / 神徳稲荷神社
Address: Kagoshima-ken, Kanoya-shi, Shineicho 1771-4

Source: Twitter/@DJ_HARABO via Jin, Kagoshima Gourmet Tabearuki and Susume Spot, Togetter
Featured image: Twitter/@fumin_fuq
Top image: Pakutaso

Japanese anime fans shocked by torii gate collapse at Washinomiya aka the Lucky Star Shrine

Real-life location for the Lucky Star anime forever altered as iconic gate comes tumbling down.

For years, Japanese anime fans have been enjoying a pastime called “Seichi Junrei”, which translates to “Holy Site Pilgrimage“. Despite its religious connotations, in the world of anime seichi junrei refers to visiting real-life locations that appear in popular anime, and for fans of the popular series Lucky Star, this happens to involve a real holy site called Washinomiya Shrine.

▼ The shrine is particularly famous for its large torii gate, which appears in the Lucky Star anime.

Located in Washimiya in Saitama, Tokyo’s neighbouring prefecture to the north, Washinomiya Shrine is known for being the oldest shrine in Japan’s Kanto region, which encompasses the Greater Tokyo Area, along with Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa prefectures.

▼ The “Lucky Star Shrine” in real-life.

In Lucky Star, which began as a four-panel comic strip manga back in 2003 before being serialised in anime form, Washinomiya Shrine is where the the Hiiragi sisters, the anime’s main characters, work as miko shrine maidens. As a result, fans, cosplayers and photographers have been flocking to the shrine in recent years, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in Lucky Star-related sales to the town.

However, on the weekend, fans were left reeling after reports revealed that the iconic torii gate at the entrance to the shrine had collapsed.

According to eyewitnesses, the gate fell at 11:00 a.m. on 11 August, creating a loud creaking noise as it collapsed.

The gate fell towards the road, but thankfully nobody was walking past at the time so there were no injuries.

The only casualty was this car, which received damage to its boot as it was parked near the gate at the time of the incident.

News reports on television showed the remains of the gate being cleared soon after its collapse.

One visitor filmed the gate as it was being cleared away. According to his report, the gate had been rebuilt in 1973 and had been inspected 10 years ago.

However, this photo from March shows that the gate looked to be in dire need of repair.

Shrine staff say that inspections are currently underway to determine the details as to why the gate collapsed. However, they suspect it deteriorated naturally due to old age.

▼ The famous entrance now looks totally different without its iconic gate.

The cement blocks on which the torii once stood are still there, though, ready to support the new gate in future.

This photo shows the depth of the holes in the cement which are used to support the tall structure.

Given the shrine’s popularity with locals and fans of the popular anime, it’s lucky that nobody was injured during the incident. Still, Washinomiya Shrine won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, and it’s only a matter of time before a new torii gate is erected in its place, which is more than we can say for the real-world shrine from Ghibli anime Pom Poko, whose future is currently teetering on the balance.

Source: Net Lab
Featured image: Twitter/@teradrive_tw

Petition to protest bulldozing of Ghibli-featured shrine gathers over 10,000 signatures worldwide

The people have made it clear that they want the shrine to stay, but will that be enough to save it?

Bordering a large park in Tokushima Prefecture on the western tip of Shikoku lies a shrine dedicated to the mischievous tanuki. Though it’s not a very old shrine–it was built in 1956–Kincho Shrine is beloved by the residents of Komatsushima City not only because of its endearing tanuki decorations, but also because of its appearance in the Studio Ghibli anime Pom Poko, directed by the late Isao Takahata.

Instagram Photo

Sadly, Kincho Shrine may soon be bulldozed and turned into a parking lot. It’s part of Hinomine Omiko Park, which Komatsushima City has been planning to demolish and turn into an emergency management facility by 2023. The shrine, which sits on the edge of the park, is apparently in the perfect place for a parking lot, and therefore is also facing the danger of demolition.

When the plans were announced earlier this year, local citizens and fans of Ghibli were outraged that an iconic setting and unique local feature would be destroyed, and a Citizen’s Committee to Protect Kincho Shrine was formed. The first order of business was to create a petition to protect the shrine, the goal of which, the committee chairman said, was “not to protest the plan for redevelopment, but to encourage the city to put its best efforts towards preservation.”

▼ The shrine is also apparently a beautiful place to visit in spring, which makes it even more of a shame if it were to be torn down (red pandas are not known to be native to the area).

Instagram Photo

The petition was conducted both in-person and online. Members of the committee petitioned locals in 36 places around Komatsushima City between April and June and received 3,092 signatures, while an online petition, which had started in March, gathered 7,094 signatures from netizens around the world. In total they were able to collect over 10,000 signatures in support of the shrine.

The committee submitted the petition to the Mayor and City Council Chairman of Komatsushima City on July 31, in hope that the city government would form a committee that would quickly work towards a solution. However, one problem still remains: the shrine rests on private property.

▼ Tanuki statues in Kincho Shrine

Instagram Photo

“The shrine does not belong to the city, and therefore we are not in a place to make a decision regarding it,” said the mayor.

Interestingly, it seems like nobody knows who the owner of the property is, so it is likely that the next step would be to find the owner and begin negotiations with them. Whether or not the city is able to move forward with their plan hinges on the decision of the property owner, so undoubtedly fans and supporters of the shrine are waiting for the outcome with bated breath.

Instagram Photo

Fortunately, several places that inspired Ghibli films are still active and in no danger of demolition in the near future, like Tomonoura, which inspired the setting for Ponyo, and Yakushima Island, the stunning inspiration for Princess Mononoke. If Kincho Shrine does end up demolished, Ghibli fans will certainly mourn its loss, but at least they will still have some wonderful Ghibli places to explore.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Tokushima Shimbun
Featured Image:

Hello Kitty adds Japanese exorcism to her work repertoire, Twitter baffled and amused

Is there anything Kitty can’t do? She can spiritually purify your house or room with salt now, so tell your ghost stories without fear of retribution!

Hello Kitty is one of the world’s foremost workaholics. When she isn’t manning her own Shinkansen train, teaming up with the Japan Coast Guard, starring in her own movie, attending the weddings of fans, breathing new life into the Bon Odori dance, toiling at a cake store for charity or revolutionizing the very currency of her home country, Kitty can be found sticking her adorably chubby paws into all manners of corporate pies.

The CEO of Sanrio itself has been candid about why the company is constantly clamoring to collaborate. Not only does Kitty get to spread her brand, but she gets to boost the awareness of all manner of different companies! Back in 2017, Kitty joined forces with interior design company Belluna to create perhaps the strangest of all of her collaborations to date, and a viral tweet has gotten everyone chatting about it again.

“With it being summer and all, I’m itching to tell some good ghost stories. I should get a morijio to purify the area so no spirits curse me… Ah, they have a Hello Kitty morijio.”

Summer is the typical time in Japan to huddle with your friends and tell a bone-chilling scary story. The slow, creeping heat; the dismal whir of cicadas in the background… It’s a great atmosphere to generate goose-flesh. But if you’re superstitious, you might want to take precautions that your levity doesn’t anger any wrathful spirits in the area. Cue the humble morijio, or ‘salt pile’.

You may have seen these pointy piles of salt around shrines, on the porches of houses or in the windows of restaurants. The reason they’re popular is two-fold: first is an enduring Heian-period urban legend that the salt will lure the oxen of rich merchants to your store and boost your business, much like how Kitty does to flagging franchises. The second is that salt is a purifier, and putting the little pile of salt out front shows that your house or store is free of pesky spirits.

Belluna’s collaborative item, the Hello Kitty Happy Morijio Set, comes in a stylish dusky pink. It consists of two parts: a small geometric dish edged with gold lacquer to rest your salt on top of, and a cap to cover the salt with so it can maintain its perfect cone shape. The cap even comes adorned with a tiny, perfect Kitty ribbon! A steal at 3,800 yen (US$33.70) plus tax.

Alas – even with the renewed interest around the spooky summer season, the Happy Morijio Set is all sold out on Belluna, leaving horror fans decidedly unhappy. Here’s hoping they restock this bizarre item so we can enjoy Kitty’s cute aesthetic even while ridding our houses of malevolent energy.

Source, featured image: Belluna

“Ghost photo” shows Kyoto’s breathtaking Fushimi Inari Shrine can be bone-chilling at night

And that flash of light isn’t even the scariest part of the snapshot.

In the span of a few years, Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine has gone from being relatively unknown to foreign travelers to being one of their favorite destinations in Japan. And its popularity is well-deserved, as wandering through the hillside tunnels of thousands of Shinto torii gates makes for a beautiful, unforgettable experience, especially if the late afternoon sunlight is filtering through the gaps in the torii.

However, Fushimi Inari can feel a little less inviting once the sun goes down. Just like many Western horror tales are set in or around secluded churches, Japan has a long tradition of ghost stories that take place at rural shrines. The higher you climb along Fushimi Inari’s pathways, the farther you get from the light of the city, which can make it feel like the world of the living is also growing distant, which brings us to a creepy snapshot taken by Japanese Twitter user @mcoscam.

“I was taking photos at Fushimi Inari Shrine at night, and I ended up with this freaky one…So scared I’m about to cry…”

“What happened?” asked a shocked commenter, to which @mcoscam replied “That’s what I want to know!”

Following the ghostly streak of light its farthest point from the lens, it seems to stop at a hanging lantern, or perhaps the brightest part of the reflection of the camera’s flash. Somehow this light source then got smeared in an undulating arc when the image was captured. That’s got to be what’s going on, right? After all, ghosts aren’t real…

…is what we keep trying to convince ourselves as we look at this subtly startling portion of @mcoscam’s photo, which escaped our notice until another Twitter user shared a zoomed-in version.

Once again, though, this looks to be a trick of the light, though one with a connection to local religious customs. See, each of the torii at Fushimi Inari is paid for by a donor, often a business looking to curry favor with Inari, the Shinto god of commerce. Torii are added as donations are made, which means that adjacent gates may actually have been installed several years apart from each other, and so their paint, metal fittings, and other components will be in different states of weathering and/or disrepair. As a result, the surfaces of the torii tunnels don’t reflect light uniformly, which can cause irregular shapes like the “silhouette” seen in the photos above.

So as spooky as @mcoscam’s photo may be, this probably isn’t concrete proof that the shrine is haunted. As a matter of fact, some of @mcoscam’s other photos from that night show that Fushimi Inari has a unique beauty after dark, which we also saw when we took a look at its midsummer Motomiya Festival.

Still, if you decide to plan your trip to Fushimi Inari for early enough in the day so that you’ll be done before sundown, we won’t blame you.

Source: Twitter/@mcoscam via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@mcoscam
Top, insert images ©SoraNews24

Plan to turn real-world shrine from Studio Ghibli anime into a parking lot upsets fans, residents

Shinto shrine was featured in recently deceased anime director Isao Takahata’s Pom Poko.

Last week, the anime world suffered the sad loss of Isao Takahata, one of the medium’s most respected directors and a founding member of Studio Ghibli, who passed away on April 5 at the age of 82. Though Takahata is best known for his 1988 postwar tragedy Grave of the Fireflies, his 1994 Pom Poko (also known as Heisei Era Tanuki War Pom Poko) has its own tale of sadness to weave as it follows a pack of tanuki (raccoon dogs) who, like their folklore counterparts, can speak and have magical powers.

In the film, the tanukis’ woodland home in the Tokyo suburbs is being increasingly encroached upon by human residential development, mirroring real-life expansion of the city during the period when the anime was released. Pom Poko is filled with fantastical and farcical comedy (such as tanuki swinging their famously large testicles as weapons), but also presents the conflict as a genuine life-or-death situation, with casualties on both the human and tanuki sides dryly included as a matter-of-fact consequence of the conflict.

▼ Trailer for Pom Poko

Once again opting for realism over sentimentalism, as the movie goes on the tanuki have to resign themselves to the fact that their animal concerns and coercive capabilities aren’t enough to deter the construction, and their land is redeveloped. Now, in a parallel to that, a Shinto shrine featured in Pom Poko might be being torn down in order to make room for a parking lot.

Kincho Shrine (pictured at the top of this article) is located in the town of Komatsushima, Tokushima Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku, far away from Tokyo. However, the shrine has long had a connection to tanuki. The shrine was originally constructed in 1956 using money from a donation from a film company executive who’d made a successful movie based on local tanuki folklore, and it also serves as the setting for a scene in Pom Poko, where it’s depicted as the home of a group of wise tanuki elders.

▼ Tanuki statues (and their massive balls) welcome visitors to the shrine.

While the shrine is private property, it sits on municipal land, which is part of a park. Last summer, it was announced that sections of the park would be redeveloped, with tsunami preparedness the initial impetus for the project. Part of the proposed plan, though, calls for Kincho Shrine to be demolished, and a parking lot to be put in its place.

▼ An aerial view of the area

That proposal has sparked a backlash, though, among local residents who want to preserve the shrine, who have received shouts of support online from anime fans. In March, an online petition was started to keep the shrine even after the park’s renovation, garnering roughly 2,000 signatures so far.

Luckily, the city itself is showing a willingness to be flexible on the issue, At the very least, planners say they want to leave behind a tanuki statue, and they’ve reminded everyone that while the initial proposal is to replace the shrine with a parking lot, that’s by no means finalized, and planners are still debating the exact details of the redevelopment. “The shrine itself is private property,” a member of the city’s development bureau reminded those who were upset, “and so it can’t be torn by unilateral decision.” So hopefully Kincho Shrine’s future will be less bittersweet than the ending of Pom Poko.

Source: Livedoor News/J Cast via Jin
Top image: Wikipedia/Reggaeman
Insert images: Wikipedia/Reggaeman, Wikipedia/タコノマクラ

Japan Sumo Association bans girls from prohibiting in practice event as controversy continues

Stance that the sanctity of the sumo ring is tarnished by female presence extends all the way down to elementary school-age kids.

It’s been less than 10 days since a controversy erupted as women were asked to leave the ring at a sumo exhibition in Kyoto where the attending male mayor had collapsed. Now the Japan Sumo Association is once again under a critical spotlight as it asserts that the ring’s sacred purity will be contaminated by the presence of even grade school-age females.

As part of its regional spring exhibition tour (which included the above-mentioned event in Kyoto), a sumo exhibition was held in Shizuoka Prefecture on April 8. This was the sixth iteration of the annual event, and as part of the festivities, elementary school-age children from local youth sumo clubs are allowed to step into the ring (called the “dohyo” in Japanese) for a training session with top-tier professional sumo wrestlers. For the last three years, the kid contingent has included girls as well as boys (there are no records indicating whether or not girls participated in the event in 2013 and 2014).

▼ A photo from a previous iteration of the event

This year, five girls, two from Shizuoka City and three from the town of Yaizu (also in Shizuoka Prefecture) were to part of the training session, dubbed “Chibikko Sumo” (“Little Tykes Sumo”). However, a few days prior to the event, the local organizers received a phone call from retired sumo wrestler Daisuke Araiso (who competed under the ring name Tamaasuka). Araiso now serves as the national Japan Sumo Association’s director for Shizuoka Prefecture, and he called to tell the local organizers that the Japan Sumo Association did not want girls to participate in the Chibikko Sumo portion of the Shizuoka event.

Oh, and the exact date Araiso placed the call? April 4, the very same day of the incident in Kyoto, though it’s not known whether Araiso was aware of the mayor’s collapse at the time of the call.

So in the end, all 20 of the kids who took part in the Chibikko Sumo program were boys.

The prohibition against women entering the dohyo has its roots in ancient Shinto beliefs, and to this day sumo retains strong ties to religious ceremony. However, even to many Japanese people, this is a case of clinging too tightly to traditions, as evidenced by online reactions including:

“Utterly idiotic.”
“This is just cruel.”
“With the timing, it’s hard to see this as anything but rubbing it in women’s faces.”
“The Japan Sumo Association is worthless.”
“This isn’t going to do the sport any favors in the image department.”

If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s the fact that despite the Japan Sumo Association’s hard-line stance, not everyone involved in the sport feels like women need to be kept out of the ring, especially in the case of little girls. As evidenced by the inclusion of girls in the Shizuoka event the last three years, there are coaches willing to train girls in sumo, and organizations who want them to have a chance to compete. “I wanted the girls to be able to enter the dohyo, at least for a regional tour event,” lamented the coach of the Yaizu sumo club, and hopefully they’ll get the chance someday, even without the Japan Sumo Association’s blessing.

Sources: Tokyo Shimbun, Twitter/@taketake1w via Otakomu
Featured image: Twitter/@taketake1w
Top image ©SoraNews24