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Hidden Wonders | The 'Floating' Torii Gates of Oouo Shrine

Discover the enchanting Oouo Shrine in Tara-cho, where semi-submerged torii gates mirror the Ariake Sea's tidal dance, steeped in legend and local devotion.



The Torii Gates of Oouo Shrine at high tide. The tidal range in the Ariake Sea reaches approximately six meters at its maximum, said to be the largest in Japan. Tara Town, Saga Prefecture. (©Sankei by Masamichi Kirihara)

People describe Tara-cho as "a town where you can witness the moon's gravitational pull." Intrigued, I set out for the town nestled along the shores of the Ariake Sea in Saga Prefecture. Along the shoreline, three torii gates submerged in the water catch the eye with their distinctive allure. 

The torii gates are partially submerged during high tide. A stone-paved path to the gates emerges again as the tide recedes. Witnessing this transformation, one can observe firsthand the ebb and flow of the tide, shaped by the moon's gravitational rhythm.

But why erect torii gates in water? Local legends shed light on their origins.

The Legendary Origins of Oouo Shrine

Long ago, villagers devised a plan to rid themselves of a tyrannical magistrate who plagued their lives.

Under the pretext of a celebratory feast, they lured him to Okinoshima, an island adrift in the Ariake Sea, and abandoned him there. As the tide crept in, the island began to submerge. Desperate, the magistrate prayed to the gods for help.

Suddenly, a giant fish appeared. Clinging to the creature's back, the magistrate narrowly escaped death. Moved by this ordeal, he repented his misdeeds and erected the Oouo Shrine along the coastline. Since then, the village has enjoyed peace.

When the tide recedes, a path emerges to the torii gates. (©Sankei by Masamichi Kirihara)

Renewing History

The torii gates were constructed along the approach to the shrine during the mid-Edo period. Rebuilt approximately every 30 years, they have been faithfully maintained through generations. Yet, in recent times, neglect had taken its toll, prompting concerned locals to undertake its reconstruction in 2012.

Once renovated, its mystical image swiftly gained fame, making it one of Saga Prefecture's top tourist destinations. Today, it holds special significance for residents as a cherished location for pre-wedding photoshoots and coming-of-age ceremonies.


The current torii gates, rebuilt in February, boast vivid vermilion hues, creating a stunning contrast against the blue Ariake Sea.

Wataru Yamaguchi (80), chairman of the town's revitalization association, advocated for the rebuilding. "My grandparents often told me about the legend of the torii gates," he recounts. "These torii have been a playground for children since ancient times, so I couldn't simply overlook their decay."

Oouo Shrine's venerable torii gates will continue to watch over the town and its adoring residents as the tide ebbs and flows.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Masamichi Kirihara, The Sankei Shimbun