Kensuke runs up, bringing his camera to the ready. Toji follows close behind. The jinja and its torii (shrine archway) are further in.
Reichu: Incidentally, the jinja and torii are the only references I've caught to Shintoism — Japan's local religion — in the whole series. NGE actually seems blatantly lacking in references to the more "colorful" aspects of Japanese culture and tradition in general, whereas most anime are simply swimming in it (even shows that don't actually occur in Japan, like Pocket Monsters, a.k.a. Pokémon). I suppose that to fit in all of the wacky Judaeo-Christian stuff, something had to go. ;;>
Hexon.Arq: Being that I always thought Shammy looked like some kind of sushi, I think it fits here better than anywhere else. (Okay, that was wrong.) I'll be frank and say that I know nothing, NOTHING about Shinto, but the placement of the torii here brings to mind the image of Death.
Reichu: What does a torii have to do with death?
Hexon.Arq: Nothing directly. A torii is just a gateway; the script specifies the jinja into which it leads. A jinja also has nothing directly to do with death, but being a Shinto shrine, you may have the worship of the deceased. The idea of kami worship might also be said to fit, as the boys are entering into the presence of a deity: EVA-01. (A stretch, I know. But I spent the semester learning to make these connections.) Being that a jinja may be a place of worship for a fairly diverse roster of things, it's a lot more practical than a church for this meaning, as the unspecified god is easier to spot than the connection to the One God that isn't there.
The placement of seemingly arbitrary details does more than just provide something to fill up the space outside of the characters' mass. In my mind, this particular environmental prop comes off as comical more than anything else. "We opened the gate! Okay, now let's go get dead!" Being that I've often perceived this to be the approach to the Supreme Ordeal of the Prologue Arc, the direness of this situation (in which human life is visibly brought into the picture for the first time) could be a reason for this choice of setting.
Reichu: BTW, anyone know if this an actual shrine? There are quite a few of them in the Hakone region, so I couldn't begin to speculate.