- Daisuke Okui
Thousand torii gates! A must go in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha(Kyoto)
Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of the 30,000 Inari shrines nationwide. Its history is older than the transfer of the capital to Heian-kyo, and it is said to have been founded in Wado 4 (711). It was originally enshrined as a god of agriculture, but from the Middle Ages to the early modern period, it came to be widely worshiped as a “god of prosperous business and family safety”.
In recent years, the famous "Senbon Torii", a beautiful sight with vivid vermillion colors, has been attracting a lot of attention from overseas.
Highlights of Fushimi Inari Taisha
Senbon Torii（Thousand Torii Gates）
The biggest highlight of Fushimi Inari Taisha is definitely the "Senbon Torii" where you can meet a mysterious and photogenic view. In fact, there are about 10,000 torii gates throughout Mt. Inari, and the number continues to grow. Among them, the one called "Senbon Torii" refers to the approximately 400m road that forks about two minutes from the main shrine. During the day, soft light shines through the gaps between the torii gates, and at night, the lanterns that are hung in the middle of the torii gates glow with magical light.
"Torii" means "passing through" and is said to represent a sacred place or sanctuary for gods. The origin of the Senbon Torii is said to have been built by worshipers as dedications from the Edo period to the Meiji period, when there was a saying that ``a wish will come true if you dedicate a torii''. It is said that the custom of dedicating a larger and larger torii each time a wish was granted was born, and it is said that the current Senbon Torii was created.
At the Okusha Shrine, just beyond the Senbon-torii gate, there is a power spot called "Omokaruseki. There are two stone lanterns side by side, and a stone is placed on top of each lantern. After making a monetary offering, visitors make a wish in front of the lanterns. If the weight of the stone is lighter than expected, the wish is said to be granted. Conversely, if the stone is heavier than expected, it is said that more effort is required. Depending on how crowded the place is, there may be a 10-minute queue on holidays, as it is a popular spot.
Inari Okami's messenger fox
There are various theories about the name "Inari", but it is generally said that it derives from the meaning of "ears of rice grows" or "to load rice". For this reason, the most representative benefit of Fushimi Inari Taisha is a bountiful harvest. At Fushimi Inari Taisha, Komagitsune is placed everywhere in the precincts instead of Komainu. This is because foxes are believed to be messengers of Inari Okami, the enshrined deity of Fushimi Inari Taisha. Because foxes eat mice, which are natural enemies of grain, they are believed to be messengers of the gods of bountiful harvests. There are also various theories, such as that the shape of the tail resembles an ear of rice, or that the color of the ear of rice is similar. Most of the foxes in the precincts of Fushimi Inari Taisha hold one of four types: ears of rice, scrolls, balls, and keys. There are various theories, but each of these represents a symbol of a bountiful harvest, a symbol of wisdom, a symbol of the spirit of grain, and a symbol of the key to the rice storehouse. It might be fun to check what the foxes you meet in the precincts are holding in their mouths. Also, the foxes seen at Fushimi Inari are white and are called white foxes (Byakko/Hakuko). There are various theories, but it is said that the foxes of Inari Shrine are invisible, just like the gods, and white is used as a color to express transparency.
The ema, a familiar type of votive tablet at shrines, is shaped like the face of a cute white fox at Fushimi Inari Taisha. On the back of the ema, visitors write their wishes, and on the fox's face on the front, they add their own expressions. It is fun just to look at the ema hanging place filled with unique expressions of individuality.
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is located on Mount Inari, a sacred mountain 233 meters above sea level. Depending on how crowded it is, a smooth walk to the top of the mountain is said to take about one hour one way and about two hours round trip. At Yotsutsuji, a point halfway up Mt. Inari, the view that had been blocked by trees opens up to a panoramic view of the city of Kyoto. Here is one of the best viewing spots on the mountain. There are also several teahouses on the way to the top, where you can take a break while enjoying sweet snacks.