Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Torii Gate, Does It Lead to a Shrine or Temple?: Japan Insider's Tip

This can be a tough question to answer.

There are torii gates at hundreds maybe, thousands of locations throughout Japan.

The Torii Gate.  What does it lead to, a Shrine or a Temple ?

The simple RyukyuMike answer has always been, "It leads to a sacred site".

That way, I know I'm telling the truth.

Telling the difference between a shrine and a temple gets a little more confusing.

Just the other night, there was a discussion between a few of us on this topic.

To me, shrines and temples are both sacred places but, I never bothered to research and find out the difference between the two.

Well, a good citizen, named, Jun Ikemura must have heard me worrying about it and published an article that explains the difference between a shrine and temple.

Shrines:  There is a god, spirit, kamisama, or some sort of deity enshrined in a Shrine.

Temples:  This is Japan, I'm talking about, not Europe, USA, or the Mid East so, no hate mail.  OK?

Temples are places for Buddha.

Sounds like a simple enough explanation for me.  So, that's the story I'm sticking with, for now.

In the above photo, there is a torii at the bottom of the stairs.

After you walk up all 108 stairs, there is another torii at the top.  Passing through that torii, you come to a cave.  The cave is a shrine dedicated to the Okinawan gods, Amamichu and Shirumichu who, according to legend, lived there and took on human forms, way before Buddhism became fashionable in Japan.

Today you may pass through a torii gate and enter a place that is both, a sacred Shinto site and a place where a Buddha is present.  So, you may find both, a shrine and a temple on the same grounds.

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