The Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari-taisha

Everything in Japan has a roof, to keep the rain off: walls have roofs, lanterns have roofs, even gates have roofs.

The very distinctive torii gates that mark Shinto shrines are celebrated as a symbol of peace and respect for nature throughout the world—our own Brooklyn Botanical Garden has one, ironically in the middle of a pond, rather difficult to walk through.

One of the most fascinating experiences in Kyoto is the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. This is the principal shrine of Inari, one of the most important spirit gods of Shinto. the patron of rice, foxes and industry.

At Fushimi Inari, the trails linking the various shrines are lined with torii gates, four kilometers of long  orange tunnels winding up and down the hillside.  The gates are lacquered orange, with black roofs and bases, the dedications and prayers of their donors inscribed in black on the uphill side, facing the Shinto spirits who dwell there.

Early in the morning, before the crowds fill the place, it is magical and deeply meditative to walk through the gates, the orange light falling around you, the occasional local taking their daily walk up the hill.