Torii Gate Restored: How Gamers Helped Rebuild a Sacred Entrance

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In the summer of 2020, the video game Ghost of Tsushima transported players to a stunning visual recreation of 13th century Tsushima Island. Developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, the open world action-adventure game was met with critical and commercial success. Not only did it break sales records, but it also put the real Japanese island of Tsushima in the spotlight.

Located in the Nagasaki Prefecture, Tsushima Island has a rich history and natural beauty. The game brought new attention and tourism interest to the island. Local authorities even set up a website to highlight landmarks and locations from the game that can be visited in real life. Fans around the world became enamored with the island thanks to the game. This appreciation was about to manifest in a remarkable way.

In September 2020, a powerful typhoon struck Tsushima Island. The storm heavily damaged a Torii gate at the Watatsumi Shrine in Toyotama. Torii gates are traditional Japanese gates found at the entrance of Shinto shrines. They signify the transition from the mundane to the spiritual. The collapse of the centuries-old Torii gate was a major loss for the local community.

In November 2020, shrine priest Yuichi Hirayama started a crowdfunding campaign to rebuild the Torii gate. He set an initial modest goal of 5 million yen (about $48,000 USD). Given the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting even that goal seemed ambitious. But then word spread among Ghost of Tsushima fans.

Inspired by their love for the game and the island it depicted, fans rallied behind the cause. Donations started pouring in from all over the world. When the fundraising ended on January 10, 2021, over 27 million yen (about $260,000 USD) had been raised from over 2,000 donors – more than five times the original target.

In campaign updates, Hirayama expressed surprise and gratitude for the support. He said many donations came specifically from Ghost of Tsushima fans. The priest commented “I feel it is God’s guidance” regarding how fans of the game came together to give back and support Tsushima Island itself. Their generosity overwhelmed the small island community.

Repair efforts on the iconic Torii gate began in March 2021, although pandemic conditions could delay the project. The surplus funds raised will support additional repairs and improvements to Watatsumi Shrine. There were also plans to erect a monument engraved with the names of major donors, serving as a permanent symbol of gratitude towards Ghost of Tsushima fans.

This heartwarming story speaks to the passion and community often found in gaming culture. While outsiders tend to focus on toxicity and negativity, fans of Ghost of Tsushima transcended all that. Their spirit of generosity restored more than just a destroyed gate. It strengthened connections between people across the world who share a passion for the same virtual place.

The island of Tsushima has already benefited tremendously from the success of its video game namesake – from tourism growth to now fundraising support. This unique story illustrates the subtle yet profound ways that art and culture can bring people together across great distances. It highlights our shared humanity and capacity for good, thanks to the unlikely catalyst of a samurai adventure game.

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