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Oarai Shrine: Ocean Gateway

Oarai Shrine: Ocean Gateway

January 1st, 4.30am. After a two-hour drive from Tokyo, we finally arrive at Oarai. Hundreds of people here, car parks full and combini (convenience) stores besieged. But we’re happy to be here. Conditions seem to promise a crazy hatsuhinode (first sunrise of the year)! I’m seething with impatience.

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6.50am. While we’re wondering if there’ll be a repeat of the terrifying Great Wave off Kanagawa, the sun finally rises behind a raging ocean. It’s anything but peaceful!

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So 2018 is here! Akemashite! Yoi otoshi! Happy New Year! Exchange kisses. And now …

Torii! Together!

The waves go wild, break on the gravel beach, and force the helpless photographers against the stone wall. We’re all trapped.

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People start to run. Surprised cries ring out. And splaaaash! Soaked bodies! Me, I’m lucky: only my trousers washed by the cold ocean waves. Oh, wait! Another one! Awesome!

Torii? Yes, but battle-hardened!

This torii is battered by the elements but doesn’t flinch. On the contrary. To impress, it multiplies before our eyes.

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If you fail to be impressed, then sorry, my photos mustn’t be up to scratch.

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Kamiiso no Torii

Its real name is Kamiiso no Torii, the Gateway of the Sea God. There are two other torii at the Oarai shrine, but this one (established in 856 but rebuilt in 1690), is the most revered.

You’ve had enough of this torii? Bear with me. There’s a rock island I want to climb before we go.

On the Rocks

Look there, iPhonauts endangering the life of their electronic companions! Irresponsible! Hey, your selfies are silhouetted against the sun, and your specs have fallen off.

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In my ears, Mylène Farmer’s Un jour ou l’autre  (One Day or Another). In the background, the waves leaping and crashing. I know, some don’t care what happens to me, but the atmosphere adds to the magical spirit of things.

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Freed!

When I start to talk like that, better wake up. Get out of there. Ah, but before we go, here’s two pictures from my archives, taken a few months earlier.

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Oarai becalmed is really cool too, isn’t it?

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Oarai was too crowded to be able to quietly meditate. So on the way back, I stop at the …

Forest Shrine

And so ends the morning of this first day of 2018.

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If you can find this shrine, let me know! I’d love to hear about it. For now, I’ll keep it to myself (that said, you really have to be keen to go there).

I’ve been preparing a collection of torii photos for years, but in the meantime, go visit and discover Les Torii Insolites de Kyoto on the Suteki.fr website, it’s worth the trip! And if you want to know more about torii, there’s a brilliant illustrated piece by Joranne at: Les Portes du Japon (both in French).

Who Am I

I am Jordy Meow, a French photographer living in Japan. I explore discover offbeat and lesser known places in Japan. Wish to see more, or to help me? Here is my Patreon.

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