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:

New hair pins let you look like you’ve been stabbed in the head with a classic Japanese icon

If your body is a temple, your head is a shrine? Provide easy access to your bonce for roaming Shinto gods with a torii gate hair accessory.

Along with Mount Fuji, the torii gates that stand outside Shinto shrines in their cinnabar orange-red glory are one of the most iconic images of Japan. The gates mark the entrance the gods take to enter shrines, which is the reason why visitors at some shrines are told that they should use the left or right-hand sides of the gate so as to keep the centre clear for passing gods.

While thousands flock to take photos of perhaps the most famous torii gate, the ‘floating’ torii by Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima, now you can show your appreciation of the aesthetically pleasing torii shape and colour by using it to keep your hair in place.

Now that yukata season is finally here it’s the perfect opportunity to get dressed up in the light-weight summer kimono. And while the yukata accessory of choice for some is a can of cold, delicious beer, there are other bits and pieces to set off the ensemble for the lady or longer-haired gentleman.

One of those pieces is the torii kanzashi hair pin, now on sale for 5,400 yen (US$48.65) on the Village Vanguard website. Purveyors of the weird and wonderful, Village Vanguard (who have previously offered us ninja bikinis, leftover bath drink and manga umbrellas and only asked for mere money in return) have caught our attention yet again.

With one leg longer than the other, this torii would likely only be able to walk in circles, but fortunately that’s not its job – it just has to look pretty, and that it does well.

The model above is wearing two or three of the torii hairpins at the same time, but she has a few more to go before they can rival Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, a World Heritage Site with about 10,000 torii gates lining its paths up the mountain, as seen in the photo below.

Probably its secondary selling point, after its simple beauty, is the shock value of the size and the fact that the design makes it look like a vengeful god has driven a very small piece of shrine furniture through the top of your skull, like the classic Halloween accessory of a plastic axe or dagger.

You can also double up the Shinto shrine appreciation with earrings designed to look like the giant ‘chrysanthemum rosettes’ seen as decorations on the hoko (spear) floats, rolling around like shrines on wheels at Kyoto’s Gion Festival. A pair of these cost 3,780 yen (US$34) and will draw the attention of passersby as you go about your one-(wo)man parade.

Quite fetching, I think you’ll all agree, although given this writer’s hair measuring scant millimetres in a bid to survive the summer heat, neither the torii hair pin nor its dried sardine equivalent would make the perfect gift. But pink and blue curry on the other hand…

Source, top image: Village Vanguard
Insert images: Village Vanguard, Wikipedia/Pundit

Japanese graves and Shinto shrines under attack by bears for their sweet, sweet honey

It’s as if bears have no regard for religious symbolism.

On 12 May, the roof of an Inari Shrine in the northern part of Kasai City, Hyogo Prefecture, was found with part of its roof torn off. Inari Shrines are small shrines that act as remote locations for Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto. Despite their relatively small size, it would take a considerable force to tear into a roof of one in such a way.

Scattered among the wreckage were small bits of a bee hive that appeared to have been devoured by the attacker, which suggests only one possible culprit: Pooh Bears.

However, since my colleagues inform me that “Pooh Bears” are not in fact real, I’m forced to side with the Wildlife Management Research Center (WMRC) in Hyogo, who identified the vandal as an Asian black bear.

According to the WMRC, black bear mating season is during the months of June and July so they can often be founding wandering near civilized areas in search of mates, as well as food for the winter hibernation.

▼ Although…for the record, Winnie the Pooh was named after a black bear from Winnipeg, so I’m not entirely wrong in my analysis.

Image: Wikipedia/Manitoba Provincial Archives

Far from a mere plot device in Disney cartoons, bears really do go to great lengths for the sweet taste of honey. According to a WMRC rep, “They love sweet things and their smell is as sharp as a dog’s. They’re attracted to things with strong odors like rotting food or paint.”

However, rather than comically getting their fat tummies stuck in small holes, real-life bears in search of honey is a far more gritty scene involving the destruction of sacred sites. On 10 June, another Inari Shrine in Kasai had a copper plate torn off and the bee hive resting underneath it, annihilated.

Then, on 17 June, a grave was desecrated because it was standing between a bear and its bee hive. The beast tore down a stand for flowers in its wild pursuit of the golden sweet stuff.

▼ Japanese graves often have permanent flower holders for regular visits

Image: Wikipedia/Akikiki

Although this bear, or group of bears, clearly has a thing against organized religion, such sites weren’t the only one’s affected. An amateur beekeeper in the area woke up one day in May to find their apiary scratched up with large bear-like claw marks.

In spite of the recent destruction, regional wildlife experts are not overly alarmed. Bear sightings are not uncommon at all around the area, but they seldom result in injury. Also, this year the acorn yield is said to be especially low, causing the large animals to go further in search of alternative food sources.

However, they stress the need for residents to be educated about bear safety, of which the first and foremost rule is: Stay the hell away from bears. Beyond that, the WMRC advises removing all fruits and nuts from nearby trees to avoid attracting bears and wearing a bell when walking in the woods.

▼ They can smell a persimmon from two miles away and yet stinky old me can still somehow sneak up on them? Alright, better safe than sorry I guess.

Image: Wikipedia/Zephyris

The damage they’ve caused can thankfully be repaired, but the real tragedy is the bad karma these beasts are racking up. So, let’s all do our part and pray for the bears who know not what they do.

All that bad mojo needs to be cleared up. Otherwise, every time they go to hibernate this year someone will ring the doorbell, and then when they finally do get into bed, Netflix will have removed the movie they were planning to watch before going to sleep. No one deserves that.

Source: Kobe Shimbun Next
Top image: Wikipedia/Grv022, Wikipedia/Zeter114514 (Edited by SoraNews24)

“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