Itsukushima Shrine

The O-Torii gate in Japan is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The O-Torii gate stands at the entrance to the sacred island of Itsukushima, image

The O-Torii gate stands at the entrance to the sacred island of Itsukushima.

Imagine hearing this Jeopardy clue: “This iconic structure, with its orange red hue, contrasts dramatically with the surrounding green hills and blue water below.” You might say, “What is the Golden Gate Bridge?” For a Japanese contestant, though, the response is obvious: the O-Torii gate, believed to have been first erected in the 12th century, at the entrance to the sacred island of Itsukushima. Today, high-speed ferries connect Itsukushima with the bustle of nearby Hiroshima, but much of the island remains untouched. Deer and monkeys roam the forests, Japanese maples blaze crimson each autumn, and robed Shinto priests preside over ceremonies in the main temple complex—a cluster of buildings that extend on stilts over the sea. Other highlights include a five-tiered pagoda and the vast Hall of One Thousand Tatami Mats, but the main draw is the torii itself. When the tide is out, visitors can cross the exposed mudflats to leave coins for good luck. International Icons for $400, anyone?

Photography courtesy of Fg2/Wikipedia

This article was first published in May 2010. Some facts
may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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