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article imageFushimi Inari Shrine — Protector of rice and sake in Kyoto, Japan Special

By Igor I. Solar     Jun 25, 2013 in Travel
Kyoto - Fushimi Inari Taisha, a Shinto Shrine located on the foothills of a mountain in Kyoto, is dedicated to the Inari spirit protecting agricultural production; it is famous for its thousands of red-orange torii gates connecting several religious buildings.
Shintoism, “the way of the gods”
Shintoism, an ancient set of beliefs and practices of the people of Japan, venerates deities called kami, which are mostly related to objects and natural phenomena such as animals, rain, wind, rivers or mountains. Mt Fuji, recently inscribed on the list of World Heritage, is one of the most revered kami of Japan.
The fertility of the land and food production, such as rice, are essential for life, thus are also subject of Shinto worship. Even dead humans become kami and are revered by their families as ancestral kami. The kami are honored in shrines which can be very small and located somewhere in the house or along the road, or be very large, occupying a large area in a forest or an entire mountainside. Among the most revered Shinto shrines in Japan are Kasuga Taisha in Nara and Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto.
Typically, the entrance to a Shinto complex is indicated by one or several large gates called torii. The torii may be constructed of various materials and painted in different colors, however most torii are made of wood and painted red-orange and black. Often access to a Shinto temple is also marked by statues of animals (Komainu) which may look like a lion or fox and are generally decorated with a ceremonial red bib and may have an object in their mouth, like a rolled message (scroll) or a key.
A large grey torii gate announces the proximity of the entrance to Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine in Ky...
A large grey torii gate announces the proximity of the entrance to Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine in Kyoto, Japan.
The second torii gate is bright orange-red and leads to the main entrance into the Fushimi Inari Tai...
The second torii gate is bright orange-red and leads to the main entrance into the Fushimi Inari Taisha complex.
Several red-painted structures in the grounds of Fushimi Inari are dedicated to the sale of small to...
Several red-painted structures in the grounds of Fushimi Inari are dedicated to the sale of small torii gates, talismans, good-luck charms, and fox-shaped wish tablets.
The fox statues  usually a male and a female  represent the messengers of the spirit or Kami of the ...
The fox statues, usually a male and a female, represent the messengers of the spirit or Kami of the Inari deity. They wear a votive red bib and hold a scroll or a key in their mouth. The scroll contains Buddhist readings and the key allows access to the granary where the rice is kept.
Inari deity, protector of rice, sake and industry
Fushimi Inari Taisha is dedicated to the spirit or kami known as “Inari” and is located southwest of the city of Kyoto. About 32,000 shrines, one-third of the Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to the Inari kami. The complex occupies much of Inari-yama Mountain and includes several major structures including a Main Shrine and numerous trails that ascend the mountain toward smaller shrines. Along the trails, connecting the various shrines, there are thousands of red torii gates of various sizes placed in sequence resembling tunnels.
The first structures of the sanctuary date from 711. Earthquakes and fires have destroyed several times the temples and torii gates. At present most of the structures are from the late fifteenth century.
Next to the Main Temple of Fushimi Inari is the Worship Shrine or  Haiden  where worshipers pay thei...
Next to the Main Temple of Fushimi Inari is the Worship Shrine or "Haiden" where worshipers pay their respects to the kami by pulling a ribbon, playing a bell, and performing a sequence of bows and hand clapping (see video below).
This is the entrance to the path of the thousands of torii gates that go up the Inari Mountain. In s...
This is the entrance to the path of the thousands of torii gates that go up the Inari Mountain. In some sections the tunnel of red torii gates runs in parallel.
The inscriptions showing the name of individuals  families  or businesses that donated each torii ga...
The inscriptions showing the name of individuals, families, or businesses that donated each torii gate is in the opposite side of the torii and can be seen in the way back from the hill.
Going up the hill the torii gates are plain  without inscriptions.
Going up the hill the torii gates are plain, without inscriptions.
The spirit of Inari is considered as the protector of crops, especially rice, and from the beginning it was associated with productivity and good fortune. Inari gradually became not only a powerful deity to promote agriculture, but also manufacturing, trade and even success in real estate transactions.
It is said that each of the thousands of torii gates at Fushimi Inari has been donated by an individual, family or Japanese company, in gratitude for success in business or to promote the attainment of good harvests or business prosperity.
The torii gates are placed in close proximity and have inscriptions in Kanji (Japanese characters) i...
The torii gates are placed in close proximity and have inscriptions in Kanji (Japanese characters) indicating the name of the donor. The Shrine is open until dusk, thus there are beautiful lanterns to provide illumination for visitors.
Those who cannot afford to donate a large torii gate but still wish to worship the kami  can purchas...
Those who cannot afford to donate a large torii gate but still wish to worship the kami, can purchase miniature torii gates and place them in red-painted racks.
Wooden tablets with the shape of a fox head known as “Ema” can also be purchased for a small cha...
Wooden tablets with the shape of a fox head known as “Ema” can also be purchased for a small charge. Worshipers can draw the face of the fox, write their wish in the reverse of the tablet and hang it in special racks.
Figurines of the “beckoning cat”  also known as lucky cat  or fortune cat (known in Japan as “...
Figurines of the “beckoning cat”, also known as lucky cat, or fortune cat (known in Japan as “'maneki-neko”), are sold to the faithful in shops outside Fushimi Inari. Maneki-nekos are a common Japanese lucky charm, which can bring benefits to the owner. The figurine is usually made of ceramic, with a decoration around the neck, adorned with coins or food items, and holding up a paw. White cats are for good luck, black cats for good health, and gold cats bring monetary wealth.
The Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine is considered one of the most beautiful places in Kyoto, and a true symbol of the religious culture of Japan. Devout followers of the Shinto religion regularly attend to express their respect for the kami of the shrine. Thousands of travelers from around the world visit the place to admire the beauty of the thousands of torii gates that produce a truly remarkable and magical effect.
Access to Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine is open sunrise to sunset and access to the grounds is free. The complex is located very close to Inari Station, the second station from Kyoto Station along the JR Nara Line or a short walk from Fushimi-Inari Station of the Keihan Main Line to Nara.
Related articles on religious sites in Kyoto and Nara:
Photo Essay: Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera — ‘The temple of clear water’
Photo Essay: Kasuga Shrine — Three thousand lanterns of faith
‘Sanjusangen-do’ — A splendid collection of Japanese Buddhist art
Photo Essay: Architecture and Buddhist deities of Kofuku Temple
Todai-ji — The monumental Buddhist temple of Nara, Japan
More about Fushimi Inari, kyoto japan, Shinto Shrine, Shintoism, Komainu
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