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Gender of Torii

Rev Brian

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My wife spends a good deal of time in Japan, and I enjoy visiting Japan as well. A recent discussion we had was about the suggestion that the structure of a Torii revels the gender of the god or goddess within the grounds. I have not been able to locate any specific information about this suggestion and was wondering if anyone on the Jref site could help me shed some light on this question. I am considering adding a Torii to our landscape and want to do my utmost to honor the tradition.
 

Majestic

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Interesting question. I haven't heard about this. I looked around on the internet and found that some architectural elements of the shrine itself reveal the gender of the god/goddess enshrined, but nothing about the torii. See here for more detail (in Japanese, but with the help of the pictures and a translation tool, you should be able to get the drift).
神社の屋根で神様の性別が分かる!?男神と女神の見分け方! | キュリオシティの楽園!
【神社の雑学】男女の神様を見分ける簡単な方法と回り順 - ママ博 | 主婦が知りたい病気・健康・育児・家事の知恵
 

Majestic

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And, apologies for the completely unsolicited opinion, but I would stick with non-religious imagery like stone lanterns, stone urns (tsukubai), shishi-otoshi, or wooden bridges etc. for the garden.
The torii feels weird as a landscape item. It wouldn't be honoring anything, and would just be a kitschy garden decoration, devoid of meaning. I suppose if you had a shinto priest come and dedicate a spot in your landscape to a particular deity, it would be a bit more acceptable, but it still feels a bit odd to have one on private property. In a way, it reminds me of the frequent postings we get asking for advice on tattoos for Japanese motifs because the poster wants to show how much he/she respects Japanese culture. As if getting a tattoo, which the general culture tends to frown upon due to its association with the criminal world and anti-social behavior, is any way to demonstrate your respect for Japan.
Anyway, just something to consider.
 

Rev Brian

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And, apologies for the completely unsolicited opinion, but I would stick with non-religious imagery like stone lanterns, stone urns (tsukubai), shishi-otoshi, or wooden bridges etc. for the garden.
The torii feels weird as a landscape item. It wouldn't be honoring anything, and would just be a kitschy garden decoration, devoid of meaning. I suppose if you had a shinto priest come and dedicate a spot in your landscape to a particular deity, it would be a bit more acceptable, but it still feels a bit odd to have one on private property. In a way, it reminds me of the frequent postings we get asking for advice on tattoos for Japanese motifs because the poster wants to show how much he/she respects Japanese culture. As if getting a tattoo, which the general culture tends to frown upon due to its association with the criminal world and anti-social behavior, is any way to demonstrate your respect for Japan.
Anyway, just something to consider.
Thank you so much for your reply. I will continue to follow up on the question of gender. I also appreciate your thoughts about the Torii in the yard. I will investigate the possibility of taking it to the next level of a Shinto blessing should we move forward.
Again, I truly appreciate your responses.
 

Mike Cash

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I don't understand what's going on here.

You already have a Japanese god living in your garden and you want to make sure you get a gender-appropriate torii?

Or is the torii supposed to attract a Japanese god and you want to make sure you attract the desired gender? Sort of like the spiritual version of setting out martin houses in hopes of keeping the mosquitos down and you have to make sure the design is just right because they're known to be fussy sometimes.

Is this going to be a standalone ornament? Torii almost always serve to mark the path to the actual shrine itself and hence almost always appear in conjunction with a shrine, though they can sometimes be separated by almost ridiculous distances.

There is nothing particularly unusual about having a shrine on private property; I've seen tons of them. Hell, they're sold at home centers. You can even buy everything needed online: 外宮・稲荷宮・向拝宮・外祭用祠販売/通販−滝田商店
 

nice gaijin

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Yes, Torii mark a sacred place, though not always a shrine it is most commonly a shrine. You could always build your own or buy a facsimile, but if you really want to honor the tradition, I would recommend seeking out a local Japanese Shinto priest and asking them directly about this idea. Barring that, a Japanese Buddhist priest might still have sufficient knowledge to counsel you. Regardless of the outcome, please consider donating a little to their church/temple for their help, many of these temples stateside, while seeming ornate, are often suffering from a lack of alms thanks to the aging population of its congregation. Doesn't have to be much, but the gesture goes a long way.

Last year, I visited Dewasanzan in Yamagata prefecture, and learned more about the interwoven histories of Shinto and Buddhism (see: Shinbutsu Shugo), such as the Chinjusha/Chinjugami. This year, my friend that went with me even participated in the Yamabushi taiken (not his article, just a search result). One of the more interesting things I learned about was that the structure and build of the different parts of the torii had meanings in themselves, so the reason there is such a variety of torii styles is that they, like old religious art, are full of symbolism and hidden messages.


The only one that stuck to my mind is the ryobu-torii (両部鳥居), which I was told marks an area that has a shared heritage of kami and buddhism. The wiki article on Torii go into greater detail and a basic outline of the different styles: Torii - Wikipedia

Please note, neither have I heard mention of, nor do I see in any of these materials, a reference to torii construction and the gender of the kami it honors. There is no mention of "gender," "male" or "female" in the wikipedia article. I think you may be chasing a phantom concept.

This site seems to have quite a bit of information about shinto structures and relics, I'll let you read through and research for yourself: Green Shinto

Edit: ooh, what an auspicious post to break the 5,000 post count with! lovely.
 
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Toritoribe

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lanthas

 
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Since Google Translate doesn't handle the above Yahoo Chiebukuro post very well, here's a summary.

Apparently, a guide at the Ise Grand Shrine (which is dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu) claimed that the horizontal pillars of its torii not sticking out at the sides indicates a female god, while pillars that do stick out would indicate a male god. The truth is different, however: these are simply two different styles of torii (named 神明鳥居 and 明神鳥居 respectively), the former being older and more sober and the latter being newer and more decorated (having received influence from Buddhism). They bear no relation to gender. The reason why some people believe they do is simply that Ise Grand Shrine, which is one of the few shrines using the old torii style, is also pretty much the only shrine dedicated to a well-known female god. Other well-known gods tend to be male, and other shrines tend to use the new torii style.

So while there might seem to be a relation, this is simply a coincidence. The Yasukuni shrine is listed as a counterexample: "despite" using the old torii style, it decidedly doesn't enshrine a female god. As such, the claim that "if it has a bit that sticks out, it's a male" is nothing but an immature (and unfounded) joke in the end.

A very interesting read indeed 🙂:
 
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