Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fushimi Inari

Romon Gate

Fushimi Inari Taisha is the main Shinto shrine of the thousands of shrines in Japan. It is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and sake. With Japan's transformation from an agricultural economy to an industrial state, Inari has come to represent success and prosperity especially for businessmen and companies.

Shinto is an ethnic religion that flourished in Japan from the 12th century. References to Shinto practices have been traced as early as the 8th century. Shinto, unlike Christianity, does not recognize one god but rather believes in a multitude of deities (kami) who demonstrate superhuman qualities. About 46% of the Japanese population profess the Shinto faith.*

Torii Gates

Behind the honden (main hall) is a trail lined with thousands of vermilion torii gates which were donated by individual worshippers and businesses. The cost of a small torii gate is around 400,000 yen. Etched in black on the back of each gate is the name and address of the donor. The trail leads up to Mount Inari which is 233 meters high (764 ft.). It's incredible to behold the sheer number of torii gates (in the thousands) in the midst of such a lush landscape. And it seemed to go on and on as I climbed higher and deeper into the woods. It was a gradual ascent and easy on the legs. I went halfway up past smaller shrines and diminishing torii gates before I turned back.

Names of donors are inscribed on the back of each torii

Fushimi Inari shrine was not on my list of places to visit in Kyoto. I was fortunate enough to have read my hotel's recommendations of the top destinations in Kyoto which included this particular shrine. It is my favorite of all the places I visited during my trip to Kyoto.  

The best way to get to Fushimi Inari is by train from Kyoto Station. It's the second stop on the JR Nara line and right outside the train station in Inari. As of this writing, the fare is 140 yen. There is no entrance fee to the shrine. There's a pedestrian only street outside the shrine with tea houses, restaurants and souvenir shops.

* from Umeda Yoshimi's "Studies in Shinto" (10-23-2009). The figure 46.4% was taken from the Religion Yearbook published by the Japan Agency for Cultural Affairs.
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Images by Charie

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