The Secret to Why Shrine Gateways in Japan Are Red | Guidable Japan

The Secret to Why Shrine Gateways in Japan Are Red

By Yae Nov 25, 2018

This post is also available in: Thai

Have You Seen the Red Shrine Gateways in Japan?



How often do you visit shrines in Japan? It may be an already familiar sight for you, but have you ever wondered why the gateway of shrines are colored “red”?

Let’s learn another profound knowledge about Japan!


1. What is the Role of the Gateway?



Do you know exactly what the role of the gateway before you step into the shrine? The gateway is the symbol to let the people know the borderline between world of the people and Shinto shrine precincts.

People say that this gateway has the power to get rid of evil spirits since God hates any evil spirits or power of darkness. So, when people try to step into the shrine through this gateway, this gateway is said to help to get rid of any evil spirits that occupies peoples’ mind.

Normally there is one gateway for one shrine, but some shrines have several gateways so that there can be stronger power in getting rid of bad and evil spirits before people reach the shrine.


2.Red Color Ward Off Bad Luck in Japan



Do you know what the color red means for people of Japan in general? The red color has the symbol of the following major features:

・ Symbol of the beginning of life related to fire or sun

・ The sign of strength

・ Strong sense of justice

・ Energetic

・ Symbol of victory

As you can see in the above features, the red color is used on the gateway of shrine for warding off the bad luck or epidemic exclusion from people. Since the red color is believed to have strong powers, people believe that it can drive the negative energy back to wherever it came from. This red color is a very important way for the gateway in protecting the shrine from any kinds of evil spirits.

In addition to the gateway, some Japanese people ordinary believe in the power of the red color so some people put red colored figurine at the home entrance door, others plant red flowers or wear red colored necklace in order to ng to protect themselves from evil spirits.


3. What’s the Raw Material for Coloring Red?


Did you know that Japanese people use special ink for painting the gateway red color? The raw material used for this red ink is cinnabar, which looks like the copper red glaze. It’s the raw material of liquid silver. Cinnabar is very popular and used for preservative substances for wooden materials such as insect-repelling effects. The gateway of the shrine is made of wood so this cinnabar aids the gateway in lasting for a long time.

In addition, the actual color used for the gateway of the shrine, is vermilion. This color is also red but a more bright red color.


4. Make Sure You Don’t Pass Through the Gateway Center



Now that you know why the gateway of the shrine is colored red and it’s symbol to let people know that they’re getting closer to God. Another very important thing you must remember is that you must make sure not to pass through the gateway of the shrine “the center” but either left or right side. The center part of the gateway is the pass meant only for God and people need to avoid the center part to pass through the gateway.

As you all know in order to get rid of the evil spirits, make sure to pass anywhere near the gateway to reach the shrine not making any shortcut that will make you miss the gateway.



I hope you have a clearer understanding of the color red for the gateway of the shrine in Japan, and how important that gateway is. And I hope you try to keep this in mind during your stay in Japan.


Remember red color protects you!