A New Gateway
September 7, 2007 · 10:45pm EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
A torii is a gateway that can be found at the entrance to temples, shrines and training halls in Japan. Passing beneath a torii signifies passing from the mundane world into the sacred, from the secular to the spiritual. The exact origin of the gateway is lost in time, and so is the reason for writing its name with the characters meaning "bird" and 'to be". Loosely translated it could mean "bird perch", but not every priest, scholar, or teacher agrees with that definition, so we should refrain from speculation.

In ancient Japan the use of a torii as a gateway was much more widespread, and could have been seen on the way leading to sacred mountains, sacred trees, sacred rocks, and hokora (small shrines). They were also placed at entrances to castles, institutions of learning, sanctuaries, homes of prominent families, graves, wells, etc. In the late 1880's a law was issued restricting the use of Torii to only state shrines and sanctuaries of the Taisei and Shoosei sects, but the law was later rescinded.

Passing through the torii should bring a change of heart, a different attitude, even a sense of awe caused by the awareness of where we are and what we are approaching. It should bring forth respect, and humility, as well as reverence and readiness. If we are sincere, it keeps our egos in check, encourages our commitment and our self-accountability, and puts us face to face with ourselves every time we pass through it. It also reminds us of the possibility that "there is more in heaven and earth, as well as in our hearts, than are dreamt of in our philosophy."

The torii's meaning extends from subtle symbol to stern warning, depending on the level of our own spirit. Even ignoring it creates a definition in the heart of the student which would be unwise for a teacher to dismiss.

In a traditional dojo, a kohai does much more than just learn martial arts. They are also responsible for the constant upkeep of the dojo and the dojo grounds. This involves routine cleaning duties and the installation, repair and care of anything within the dojo grounds, including the sando, training yard, fences, etc. The careful maintenance of the torii and its surroundings figures prominently among those duties.

Fujiyama Dojo has been slowly upgrading the sando (approach or pathway) that leads to our dojo's entrance in the style resembling as closely as possible the old traditional koryu dojos found in Japan, especially those connected with our ryu's history. This year it was suggested to install a torii at the front of the sando, that reproduces, on a much smaller scale, the one found at the Matsudaira/Ichikawa family shrine, from old Echizen.

The students of Fujiyama Dojo worked together this past August and their handiwork and creative skills resulted in a beautiful handmade torii for the dojo. We would like to share this experience with all our Internet visitors, so please visit our gallery page as it includes photos taken while working on the project.

The work is not finished yet, of course. Gambari masho!


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