Photo/IllutrationThe torii gate of Takayajinja shrine’s main structure stands against the backdrop of the night view, looking over the city of Kanonji. (Saki Rin)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KANONJI, Kagawa Prefecture--A previously attention-starved shrine on a remote mountaintop is causing a buzz on social networking sites (SNS) for its “torii gate in the sky,” which was depicted in a hit anime series.

Located atop 400-meter-high Mount Inazumiyama, the Takayajinja shrine’s torii offers a panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea and a coastal townscape.

The view is so magnificent that the once little-known torii is enjoying newfound fame as tourists and anime fans flock to the spot to share their snaps online.

Searched on Instagram, “Takayajinja” brought up 1,000 photos earlier this year. They included a clear blue sky, a sun-setting sky and a night view, in addition to more creative ones such as people jumping under the torii and couples and friends striking poses.

According to the city government’s department of commerce and tourism, the shrine had long been held dear by local residents for its Chosa Matsuri festival in the spring and other events, but most people wouldn’t venture farther than its Gegu lower shrine.

Because the torii that stands on the premises of the Hongu main shrine is about a 45-minute climb from the Gegu, the gate had remained relatively unknown, even among locals.

It was only recently that the torii gained in popularity. After photos of it became widespread on SNS, the number of couples and tourists in their 20s and 30s rapidly increased. Also because there is a scene in “Yuki Yuna is a Hero,” a popular anime series set in the city, where the characters climb the stone staircase of the shrine, fans flock to the spot on “pilgrimages” to visit real-life anime locations, officials said.

Ayumi Yano, 23, a graduate student from the city who visited the torii at dusk one day in February, said she usually walks her dog near the shrine, but it was her first time to go all the way up to the Hongu since elementary school. She decided to come to the gate after learning that it had been much talked about on Instagram.

“I want to introduce this place to my friends when they visit Kagawa (Prefecture),” Yano said. “I’m sure this view would also please foreign tourists.”

The view was slightly foggy, but she was taking pictures of the torii from different angles with her smartphone, saying that it was even better because the fog would make the scenery appear more celestial.

It appears that not a few tourists who visit the mountaintop for the “torii in the sky” become disoriented on their way there.

When I drove a car and followed driving directions shown by Google Maps to get to the shrine, I was guided into a narrow path as wide as the vehicle from a prefectural road before ending up in an agricultural field surrounded by loquat and lemon trees. A farmer who was working in the field said he has seen on many occasions people wandering into the field while they were heading to the shrine.

Signboards for the Takayajinja shrine were seen along Prefectural Road No. 21 running along the Seto Inland Sea. The Gegu can be found after following the arrows shown on the signboards. However, the only way to get to the Hongu where the torii stands from this point of entry is by foot. It is a long and difficult mountain walk that comes with a 270-step stone staircase.

A road that allows access to the Hongu by car is apparently located in the neighboring city of Mitoyo. The Takayajinja shrine’s Hongu finally came into view while driving on Prefectural Road No. 49 for the Fudo no Taki waterfall in the Toyonakacho district in Mitoyo.

The official websites of the Kanonji city government and the Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority show how to get to the shrine by car with photographs.