Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi inari shrine lies in southern Kyoto, along the Keihan line to Osaka, just a few stations north of my so-far favourite ramen joint. Of course, when you say "shrine" you tend to think of a collection of buildings aroudn a courtyard. Fushimi Inari is different; a 3km walkway up and around a mountain, with small and large shrines and altars - and tea houses and restaurants and souvernir shops - dotting the path. Inari is a god of enterprise, so having "merchants in the temple" seems perfectly appropriate. Inari uses foxes as messengers, and the place is filled to the brim with fox statues and symbols.

Prayer Priest
Fushimi Inari main shrine at the base of the mountain.

The path itself is an absolute orgy of "torii", red-painted wooden arches donated by compaines and individuals, over tenthousand of them in all. Along most of the path you're walking in a red, wooden tunnel, so closely are they standing to each other. And as the path winds itself up along a densely forested hillside the light is decidedly dim, even on a sunny day.

Torii New Torii Torii
The torii stretch out all along the mountain side to form a long, red, wooden tunnel. In the center a painter is filling the donor name on a new gate.

The torii are donations from people and companies, giving thanks for successful enterprises. As the wooden toii don't really last in the humid climate (I've heard 15-20 years mentioned), there'll be "openings" for donations dotted all along the way, and old, half-rotted gates will stand next to ones so fresh the paint has yet to dry. Along the way there are many small shrines or offer mounds for all kinds of special needs; there's shrines not only for all kinds of manufacturers, but also for advertising and for PR work, and for various ailments. The shrine for back pain is memorably accessible only via a steep, narrow set of stairs sure to test the faith of everybody with spinal trouble. More pictures in my photo set

Shrines Candles
Small shrines are plentiful, sometimes enclosed, often out in the open, but always with foxes and small and large red gates everywhere.


  1. Love your pictures. This summer, I saw another set of inexplicable frog statues, this time with a tiny human figure. And Chad got a picture of something definitely a dragon.

    (Here via your comment in Chad's blog about the Pow! Takayama picture.)

  2. Thanks! Fushimi Inari is my favourite temple around here and well worth a return visit if you ever decide to return to Japan (I read Chad's blog from time to time so I understand you were here a while ago). It's big enough and scenic enough that seeing the place just once, in one season, really doesn't do it full justice.


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