Ikuta Shrine is the most famous shrine in Kobe. It is extra special to me because I rang in the 2012 New Year here. I’m happy to be back in Kobe for a bit of an extended stay and feel fortunate that I get to walk by this beautiful shrine frequently.
Above: Torii ~ One or more torii gates mark the approach and entrance to a shrine. They come in various colors and are made of various materials. Most torii, however are made of wood, and many are painted orange and black. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2059.html
Below: Animal guardians ~ A pair of Shishi 獅子 (lion-dogs; also called Koma-inu) traditionally stand guard outside the gates of most Japanese Shintō shrines. As guardians outside the shrine gate, one Shishi is depicted with its mouth open (to scare off demons) and the other with its mouth closed (to shelter and keep in the good spirits). Another traditional explanation for the open/closed mouth relates to Ah and Un (“Ah” is the first letter in the Japanese alphabet and “Un” is the last). The combination is said to symbolically represent birth and death. http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/shrine-guide-2.shtml
Below: Purification trough ~ Found near the entrance, the water of these fountains is used for purification. You are supposed to clean your hands and mouth before approaching the main hall. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2059.html
11apr14. Kobe, Japan.