Colors in shrines

Colors in shrines

Not only Japanese but also foreign tourists visit shrines. There are torii gates and money boxes at the shrine, and is there any relationship between these and colors? It also introduces how the colors are related to clothes for workers.

About the color of the torii gate at shrines

The first thing you see at a shrine is the torii gate. The torii gate serves as the entrance to shrines and also as a boundary between the world of God’s lives and the world of humans live. Many of the torii gates you see in photographs have a red color, and it’s interesting to know the reason why it’s red. Is there any meaning to that? Japanese people also have the impression that the torii should be red, but few people may know why this color is used. However, there are many torii gates other than red.


Red-colored Torii gates

First, it explains the meaning of the red torii gate. The red color is believed to represent powerful energy such as fire and the sun. And red is thought to have the effect of driving away evil spirits and disasters as a color that can resist magical power. For this reason, this red color is used for significant public buildings like palaces, temples, and shrines.
It seems that this color was commonly used because of the practical meaning that the mercury used in the red paint is effective in preventing the wood from decaying.

Non-red torii gates

As mentioned earlier, there are torii gates other than red, and many of them are painted brown, white, or black. In particular, white torii are the ones made of concrete or stone rather than wood. Torii gates built near the ocean areas tend to use these materials to avoid its deterioration. Besides, some of the colors initially painted white have been weathered, and the colors have faded.

Different clothes colors of priests

Actually, torii gates are not the only object applied with colors. Also, the colors of the clothes for priests are different depending on their ranks. It would help you discover and enjoy new discoveries just by understanding this when going to worship. In fact, this involves a long history of the country, and it also deepens your understanding of Japanese culture.
The clothes worn by the priest are called Hakama, which were worn by the aristocrats of the Heian period about 1200 years ago. It was dressed in the upper class at the time and continued the custom until the Edo period 150 around years ago. At that time, the aristocrats were divided into six ranks, and colors were used to represent each rank.

  • The Highest class – White to white pattern
  • The first class – purple and white pattern
  • The Upper Second class – purple to light purple pattern
  • The Second Class – purple
  • The Third and Fourth Classes – light yellow

According to rank as described above, this status was judged colors, and it was based on each individual’s background and achievements. Obviously, depending on the subsequent evaluations and contributions, people could get promoted, so it is clear that the aristocrats were also making efforts to acquire the colors of higher classes.

When you visit a shrine, please pay attention to the colors. Of course, the color scheme also has a meaning, and it has been kept in a long history. A comparison with the colors used in the religions of other countries may be interesting as well.



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