>> Thursday, July 15, 2010
On the outskirts of Kyoto lies Fushimi Inari Taisha, an incredible shrine with thousands of torii (Shinto gates, like those above) that was one of the highlights of our trip to Japan.
The closest station was a 20 minute ride outside downtown Kyoto, and was trimmed with orange, no doubt in honor of the orange torii we were about to see.
The entrance gate. This torii is said to have been placed here by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the 16th century successor to the first Japanese Shogun, Oda Nobunaga. The shrine itself was originally built southwest of here in 711, but was moved to its present location in 816.
As with many religious sites in Japan, there is a healthy commercial aspect. Down this side road, through another torii, are shops selling souvenirs of the place, as well as tokens and charms touting a variety of benefits.
The main structure here at the base of the mountain was built in 1499.
The shrine is dedicated to the kami Inari, who also lends his name to the mountain. Inari is the Shinto god or spirit of fertility, rice, agriculture, foxes, industry, and worldly success. This odd mixture means that fox statues abound, often with sheaves of rice in their mouths, and that rice offerings like sake and rice cakes are left at many altars up and down the mountain.
This kitsune (fox) holds the key to a rice granary, although he doesn't look like he's about to give it up.
The industry and worldly success angle of Inari is what is responsible for the estimated 10,000 brilliant orange torii that line the circuitous path up and around the mountain. Corporations buy these torii and have them placed here as offerings to Inari, to insure worldly success. Each of the torii is only here for a few years, and is then replaced. The names of the sponsoring corporations are the words written on the posts from the top down.
The two torii in the middle here are older, and will be replaced soon. Some are even rotting, but most are shiny and new.
The day we went was overcast and drizzly, but nothing much could dampen the strange beauty and otherworldly nature of this place.
The paths stretch for four kilometers up and around the mountain, and take around two hours to walk.
At the end of the path is a neat double path of torii.
Along the way are small pockets of shrines dedicated to Inari, creating peaceful places to stop, stroll, and sit.
Smaller torii are left all over the place by both businesses and individuals, with hand-written requests for happiness and success.
The bells can be shaken to wake the spirits. We woke up a few along the way--I hope they weren't mad that we interrupted their naps!
We thought about leaving a torii ourselves, but those things are expensive! These were among the cheapest--about $25 and $35 dollars apiece! Larger personal torii could get as expensive as $100. Worldly success doesn't come cheap...
Some smaller torii left with English wishes on them.
A smaller shrine along the path.
One of our favorite little pockets along the way. This little side path went just a few meters around the corner, and had a small waterfall of its own.
Me looking out at Wendi and Jo, with my back to the waterfall. The place was so small it was hard to get a picture looking in.
Another tiny shrine.
Nothing is truly sacred in Japan, it seems. You can pull your motorcycles right up and have shrine-side parking!
A pretty view along the way.
At certain places along the path there are rest areas that sell food, drinks, and personal torii.
We stopped at this one so Wendi could have inari-zushi, a sushi roll of fried tofu that was said to have originated here, hence its name. The fox spirits here are said to love the stuff. Wendi found it...less than impressive.
This restaurant afforded pretty impressive views of Kyoto below, though our view was somewhat obscured by the cloudy day.
I think this is a dog, not a fox. Unless it's a fox who's had too much inari-zushi.
The occasional gaps in the string of torii were often just as beautiful as the string of gates.
A fox fountain.
A rainy but fabulous morning at Fushimi Inari, definitely a must see if you go to Kyoto.