Ensures drivers are praying for their lives as they narrowly avoid the concrete pillars.

When visiting a Shinto shrine in Japan we are often confronted with one or many gate-like structures known as torii. They are meant to be a sort of supernatural barrier which allows those who pass through it to enter a realm of spiritual purity. One might even say that passing through a torii gets you a little closer to heaven.

And in the case of a torii used by Fujisaki Hachimangu, a large shrine in Kumamoto City, you just might end up getting an express ticket to heaven if you aren’t keeping your eyes on the road. It was recently spotted by Twitter user Kagetora (@kagetora_103) and made waves over the Internet.

“That left turn lane takes some technical driving.”

“The location is Fujisakigumae Intersection in Kumamoto City.”

The photos posted were a little too hazardous for many to believe.

“There’s a glitch in the Matrix.”
“Is this a real thing?”
“I’ve driven around there. Once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.”
“What do you do if you enter the left-turn lane by mistake?”
“There’s zero room for error here.

Sure, it’s probably possible to get used to a giant stone pillar in the middle of a couple lanes at an intersection, but that doesn’t really make it a good idea either. Even Kagetora’s pictures show a scuff mark on the pillar, suggesting a vehicle had recently had a brush with it. So, why is it there in the first place?

Because it was there in the first place, of course.

Most shrines have a sando, which is a road or path leading up the edge of a shrine’s property to the main structure. Depending on the size of the shrine a sando can reach as far as two kilometers, but for a modestly large shrine like Fujisaki Machimangu, it runs about 280 meters (919 feet).

▼ The orange line indicates the sando leading from the large torii to the main precincts of Fujisakimachimangu

Fujisaki Machimangu in its current location was built in 1877, not too long before the industrial revolution and automobiles that came with it. At that time its sando was little more than a dirt road lined with stone lanterns and pine trees.

However, as cars came into fashion, the commuters of Kumamoto found it to be a great shortcut and began driving all along the sando, either unaware or unconcerned that it was actually the private property of the shrine.

Figuring that if you can’t beat’em, you might as well join’em, Fujisaki Machimangu graciously lent their sando to the city, free of charge, to be paved and used like a regular city road. At this time there was still nothing odd, because the road was a narrow two lanes, easily straddled by the large torii.

▼ The sando itself makes for a rather pleasant drive, aside from the traffic.

However, as time went on, the road running across the front of the gate was converted to a six-lane stretch of National Highway 3. Because of the increased traffic, the city wanted to expand the intersection and reduce congestion.

Because the road was actually the property of the shrine, they couldn’t touch it though. So instead, city planners added some lanes to the slivers of property that they owned on either side of the sando, leaving the huge torii to sit right in the middle of it all.

▼ Seen from the opposite angle of Kagetora’s pictures, those outside lanes only go for a few meters

Although this particular orientation is quite unique, instances of cities growing around torii are not, and other Twitter users shared their own local abnormalities.

“There’s a place like that on the east side of Shizuoka Sengen Shrine.”


“Kasuga Shrine in Oita City is the same idea. And there’s two!”

▼ “This torii is going through the Nishi-Tenmangu building in the Kyoto Teramchi shopping area.”

The story of how the Fujisaki Machimangu torii came to be was uncovered by J-Town Net who spoke with a senior priest of the shrine. In the same interview he expressed his pleasure that the recent attention will hopefully bring more visitors to Kumamoto and his shrine.

We too would like to encourage you to visit all the wonders the city has to offer including this weird torii. Just remember to drive safely when you do.

Source: Twitter/@kagetora_103, J-Town Net
Featured image: Twitter/@kagetora_103
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