Wide Eyed Wanderings – Fushimi Inari-taisha

As some of you may know, I’m a self-taught student of the art or writing. As such, I have a list of “assignments” or writing styles to experiment with and learn about. This is my take on the following assignment:

“Write an article for a magazine, including pictures if appropriate. You have been given 500 words and up to 10 photos as your limits.”

Fushimi Inari-taisha

Must see tourist stop 5/5 stars
Cost/value – Free 5/5 stars
Ease of use – 3/5 stars – the senbon torii path while well maintained is sometimes steep with numerous steps and often very crowded
Insider tips – try not to visit on the weekends as massive crowds can hamper enjoyment of the natural surroundings

When visiting Kyoto, Japan, be sure to take time to visit Fushimi Inari-taisha. Although this popular site is best known for it’s Senbon torii, there is much more to this ancient shinto shrine than first meets the eye.

The shrine was founded in 711 to house the kami (divine being) Inari, the god of rice, sake and prosperity.1 The entire Mt. Inari is considered sacred and there are myriad lesser shrines within.2

After performing the ritual cleansing at the washing station, we headed through the tower gate and around the Outer Worship Hall to the Main Hall. I rang the bell to wake the gods and offered my prayer and donation. Then on to the Senbon Torii which begins behind the main hall. The “thousand torii” are actually about ten thousand torii lining the pilgrimage paths. Worshipers and tourists from all over Japan and the rest of the world walk the “Oyama-Mairi” or mountain pilgrimage.

Following the path, we pass the Kumataka Shrine and the Santoku Shrine, turning at the intersections trying to find the least occupied and hence most navigable path. Walking along the path I cannot help but sense the divine in the natural beauty of Kyoto’s early fall echoed in the resplendent vermillion torii.

Dotted along the path there are tea houses, toilets and resting areas. Prayer offerings for parishioners and tourists to purchase are also available.

Kitsune statues appear through out the shrines and paths. Kitsune, or fox, is the messenger of the god Inari and guardian of the temple. Most hold an object in the mouth such as a key to the granary, a sacred jewel, or a sheaf of rice.

Don’t forget to look around for the many Otsuka, or stone monuments, that dot the mountain path. They may look like graves but they are actually small artifacts that have been privately donated as places of personal worship and to implore the blessings of the gods of Mt. Inari. There are thousands (some say as many as 30,000) of them on the mountain.2

When leaving Fushimi Inari-taisha, make sure you stop at the adorable little sweet shops and pick up some mochi or other rice-based sweets for which Japan is famous. We stopped at one of the numerous small eateries and indulged our taste buds in a lovely udon soup and some Inari Age. Also known as inari sushi, sushi rice is wrapped in seasoned deep fried tofu pockets. It was exquisite and now I can say I’ve had inari in Inari. 😉

Til next time ~Peace ~JPP

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1  Wikipedia

2  G Meyan, Kyoto University Alumni, guide, and friend


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