Types of Torii ~ gates in Japanese Shinto shrine

Types of Torii ~ gates in Japanese Shinto shrine

The famous torii at Itsukushima Shrine, a Ryōbu-style torii

The torii, a gateway erected on the approach to every Shinto shrine.

There are various types depending on the god of the worship

Torii can be divided in two families, the shinmei family and the myōjin family.

The oldest existing stone torii was built in the 12th century and belongs to a Hachiman Shrine in Yamagata prefecture.

Parts and ornamentation

  • Torii may be unpainted or painted vermilion and black. The color black is limited to the kasagi and the nemaki (根巻, see illustration). Very rarely torii can be found also in other colors. Kamakura’s Kamakura-gū for example has a white and red one.
  • The kasagi may be reinforced underneath by a second horizontal lintel called shimaki or shimagi (島木).
  • Kasagi and the shimaki may have an upward curve called sorimashi (反り増し).
  • The nuki is often held in place by wedges (kusabi ()). The kusabi in many cases are purely ornamental.
  • At the center of the nuki there may be a supporting strut called gakuzuka (額束), sometimes covered by a tablet carrying the name of the shrine (see photo in the gallery).
  • The pillars often rest on a white stone ring called kamebara (亀腹, turtle belly) or daiishi (台石, base stone). The stone is sometimes replaced by a decorative black sleeve called nemaki (根巻, root sleeve).
  • At the top of the pillars there may be a decorative ring called daiwa (台輪, big ring).
  • The gate has a purely symbolic function and therefore there usually are no doors or board fences, but exceptions exist, as for example in the case of Ōmiwa Shrine’s triple-arched torii (miwa torii, see below).

■ Shinmei family (神明鳥居)

■ Shime torii (神明鳥居)

Shime torii
(Shinmei family)
The shinmei torii, which gives the name to the family, is constituted solely by a lintel (kasagi) and two pillars (hashira) united by a tie beam (nuki).[29] In its simplest form, all four elements are rounded and the pillars have no inclination. When the nuki is rectangular in section, it is called Yasukuni torii, from Tokyo’s Yasukuni Jinja. It is believed to be the oldest torii style.

Tainan Shrine

■ Ise torii (伊勢鳥居)

Ise torii 
(Shinmei family)

Ise torii are gates found only at the Inner Shrine and Outer Shrine at Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture. For this reason, they are also called Jingū torii, from Jingū, Ise Grand Shrine’s official Japanese name.

a shinmei torii with a kasagi pentagonal in section, a shimaki and kusabi.

The Ise Grand Shrine (Naikū)

Kashima torii (鹿島鳥居)

Kashima torii 
(Shinmei family)
The kashima torii is a shinmei torii without korobi, with kusabi and a protruding nuki. It takes its name from Kashima Shrine in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Kashima Shrine

Yasukuni torii (靖国鳥居)

Yasukuni torii
(Shinmei family)

A form of torii represented by Yasukuni Shrine

There are also other names, such as Shokon Torii and Nishira Torii.
The torii of Yasukuni Shrine is said to be Yasukuni Torii, but belongs to Shinmei Torii.

Yasukuni Shrine (san-no-torii)

■ Munetada torii (宗忠鳥居)

Munetada torii
(Shinmei family)

munetada Shrine

■ Kuroki torii (黒木鳥居)

Kuroki torii
(Shinmei family)
The kuroki torii is a shinmei torii built with unbarked wood. Because this type of torii requires replacement at three years intervals, it is becoming rare. The most notorious example is Nonomiya Shrine in Kyoto. The shrine now however uses a torii made of synthetic material which simulates the look of wood.

koutai Shrine

Shiromaruta torii (白丸太鳥居)

Shiromaruta torii
(Shinmei family)
The shiromaruta torii or shiroki torii is a shinmei torii made with logs from which bark has been removed. This type of torii is present at the tombs of all Emperors of Japan.

konosimanimasuamaterumitama Shrine

Myōjin family (明神鳥居)

■ Myōjin torii (明神鳥居)

Myōjin torii
(Myōjin family)
The myōjin torii , by far the most common torii style, are characterized by curved upper lintels (kasagi and shimaki). Both curve slightly upwards. Kusabi are present. A myōjin torii can be made of wood, stone, concrete or other materials and be vermilion or unpainted.

Fushimi Inari-taisha

■ Kasuga torii (春日鳥居)

Kasuga torii
(Myōjin family)

The Kasuga torii is a myōjin torii with straight top lintels. The style takes its name from Kasuga-taisha’s ichi-no-torii, or main torii.

The pillars have an inclination and are slightly tapered. The nuki protrudes and is held in place by kusabi driven in on both sides.

Kasuga Grand Shrine (ichi no torii)

Hachiman torii (八幡鳥居)

Hachiman torii
(Myōjin family)
Almost identical to a kasuga torii , but with the two upper lintels at a slant, the Hachiman torii first appeared during the Heian period. The name comes from the fact that this type of torii is often used at Hachiman shrines.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangū  (san-no-torii)

■ Daiwa / Inari torii (台輪/稲荷鳥居)

Daiwa / Inari torii
(Myōjin family)
The daiwa or Inari torii is a myōjin torii with two rings called daiwa at the top of the two pillars. The name “Inari torii” comes from the fact that vermilion daiwa torii tend to be common at Inari shrines, but even at the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine not all torii are in this style. This style first appeared during the late Heian period.

Fushimi Inari-taisha (ni no torii) 

■ Sannō torii (山王鳥居)

Sannō torii
(Myōjin family)
The sannō torii is myōjin torii with a gable over the two top lintels. The best example of this style is found at Hiyoshi Shrine near Lake Biwa.

Hiyoshi Taisha

■ 住吉鳥居 (住吉鳥居)

(Myōjin family)



■ Ryōbu torii (両部鳥居)

Ryōbu torii
(Myōjin family)
Also called yotsuashi torii , gongen torii or chigobashira torii , the ryōbu torii is a daiwa torii whose pillars are reinforced on both sides by square posts.The name derives from its long association with Ryōbu Shintō, a current of thought within Shingon Buddhism. The famous torii rising from the water at Itsukushima is a ryōbu torii, and the shrine used to be also a Shingon Buddhist temple, so much so that it still has a pagoda.

Itsukushima Shrine

■ Miwa torii (三輪鳥居)

Miwa torii
(Myōjin family)
Also called sankō torii, mitsutorii or komochi torii, the miwa torii is composed of three myōjin torii without inclination of the pillars. It can be found with or without doors. The most famous one is at Ōmiwa Shrine, in Nara, from which it takes its name. an entrance to a temple

Hibara Shrine

■ Nakayama itorii (中山鳥居)

Nakayama torii
(Myōjin family)
The Nakayama torii style, which takes its name from Nakayama Jinja in Okayama Prefecture, is basically a myōjin torii, but the nuki does not protrude from the pillars and the curve made by the two top lintels is more accentuated than usual. The torii at Nakayama Shrine that gives the style its name is 9 m tall and was erected in 1791.

Nakayama Shrine

■ Other kinds



■ Mihashira torii(三柱鳥居)

Mihashira torii

The mihashira torii or Mitsubashira Torii. is a type of torii which appears to be formed from three individual torii. It is thought by some to have been built by early Japanese Christians to represent the Holy Trinity.


■ 唐破風鳥居



■ Nune tori(奴禰鳥居)

Nune tori
a daiwa torii with a small gable above the gakuzuka.

Inariyama kadasya

■ 根巻鳥居



■ chūren torii

chūren toriit

The simplest is the shime torii or chūren torii.Probably one of the oldest types of torii, it consists of two posts with a sacred rope called shimenawa tied between them.

Ōmiwa Shrine (chūren toriit)

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