The Torii

One of the most recognizable features of Japanese architecture is the torii — or “gate” — which symbolizes a passageway to a sacred space. As such, before proceeding to the shrine, you wash your hands at a basin in a symbolic act of cleansing. Many shrines will have water for this cleansing available between the torii and the shrine. There may be a bamboo ladle for dipping into the water and pouring onto the hands. The Wakamiya Inari Shrine does not have this feature at the Hawaii Plantation Village, but many other shrines in Hawaii and Japan do. See some photos of torii, below.


This torii belongs to another Shinto shrine in Mo`ili`ili — the Ishizuchi Jinja. Notice the folded white paper (they look like lightening bolts) hanging from the torii. These zig-zag paper ornaments are called “shide” (pronounced “shi-deh”) and are often found hanging at Shinto shrines. They can be attached to a wand and waved by a Shinto priest during blessings and rituals. They signify a sacred space.


This torii is not associated with a shrine but is a familiar landmark in Mo`ili`ili on the strip of land between South King St. and Beretania St. It is a reminder that this area was once occupied by Japanese American businesses, residences and organizations. Not far from this torii is the Mo`ili`ili Hongwanji Mission, a Jodo Shin Buddhist temple. The Wakamiya Inari Shrine was located in the western direction on South King St., although this torii did not exist when the Inari Shrine was in use. 

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