All you need to know about torii (鳥居) in Japan

What is a torii? 

The word “torii” is the combination of two kanji: 鳥居. 鳥 means bird, and 居 which means existing. 

If you travel to Japan, you will inevitably see at least one. Indeed, Torii are the gate of every Shinto shrine. These gateways are made from wood and symbolize the barrier between the profane world and the deities’ world. When you go through a torii gate, be careful to always walk on the sides and never in the middle, which is the path reserved for deities. 


There are two types of torii, the Shinmei style (神明系) and the Meishin style(明神系), with the Meishin style being more decorative.

 

 

 

 

Left: Meishin style/ Right:  Shinmei style


Which color is a torii? 

Sometimes, torii can be white, but most of the torii are in a specific shade of vermillion called “shurio” (朱色). In Japanese culture, red represents vitality, the sun, fire, and most importantly, it is a color that rejects the evil. This shade is also often used in Buddhism for the same reasons.