Itsukushima Shrine’s grand torii acts as the gateway to Miyajima Island. As Miyajima is a top-three scenic spot in Japan according to the government, the torii is thus the entryway to such natural splendor. And as Miyajima is considered “the island of the gods” to religious practitioners, the torii is then the boundary between the spirit and human worlds.

At 16 meters tall and 24 meters wide, the torii is impressive enough for a spot so scenic, and the fact that it floats 200 meters offshore during high tide makes it as mystical as the island it guards. And despite its massive size and precarious location, the gate has stood the test of time: it was built in 1875.

The torii’s vermilion color represents both the spiritual and practical, which makes sense considering its spirit-to-human connection. Painted in a lacquer coat, the color keeps the evil spirits away while protecting the structure itself from corrosion.

Adding to the aura is the fact that the tide consistently changes. During low tide, the water retreats and visitors can walk right up beside the gate. They’ll strain their necks as they look up at its majesty; they’ll appear almost as ants next to it. Photographers will hurry to capture this striking contrast, and with luck they’ll capture a striking sunset as well. One where wisps of clouds catapult in all directions from behind the gate, where the sky’s colors burn with the same orange intensity as the gate itself.

Miyajama is one of the most picturesque locations in Japan, and any structure acting as its gate would need to be equally as stunning. The grand torii fits this bill, and if you visit, it’ll be the first thing you see on the ferry ride over and the last thing you see as you depart. Both moments will leave an indelible impact on you that’ll never fade.

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