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Shrine famed for 123 gates facing the Sea of Japan to reopen after 4-month virus closure

The Motonosumi Shrine, which will reopen from August after the replacement of some torii gates, is seen in the city of Nagato, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on July 26, 2020. (Mainichi/Masahiko Endo)

NAGATO, Yamaguchi -- A shrine famed for its 123 beautifully arranged and vivid-red torii gates facing the Sea of Japan will reopen from Aug. 1, after a four-month closure due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

    Motonosumi Shrine, in the Yamaguchi prefectural city of Nagato in western Japan, took the closure as an opportunity to replace its 21 oldest gates, which were built in 2014, with new ones. It also repainted the other gates and repaired cracks on stone walls and concrete walkways.

    The shrine was selected as among "the 31 most beautiful places in Japan" by CNN in 2015. It has been gaining popularity for having the "least accessible offering box in Japan," which is situated on a 5-meter-high torii. Eighty percent of its visitors apparently come from outside the prefecture.

    Yoriki Okamura, 72, chief priest of the shrine, said, "I'm concerned about the spread of the virus, but hope people will visit the shrine while taking measures such as wearing masks and using disinfectant."

    (Japanese original by Masahiko Endo, Hagi Local Bureau)

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