Inari shrines are shinto shrines to worship the Japanese god Inari, the deity who protects rice cultivation and the patron for merchants and tradesmen. It is said that there are 30,000 Inari shrines in all of Japan but Fushimi Inari is known as the headquarter.
ROMON GATE AND INARI SHRINE
Two giant torii painted in red-orange hue lead to the front of the Romon Gate at the shrine’s entrance. They are overwhelmingly huge and bright nobody can ever miss it! The Romon Gate is popular being donated in 1589 by the famous leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi when he prayed for his mother to recover from illness. Behind the gate stands the shrine’s main building or Honden, and the other temple buildings.
SENBON TORII : THE THOUSAND TORII
At the back of the main shrine is perhaps what strikes Fushimi Inari to every tourist’s memory : the Senbon Torii which means “thousands of torii gates”. There were literally thousands of red-orange torii gates that starts with two dense, parallel row of gates that then line the pathway up to the top of Mt.Inari. These torii gates are actually donations from individuals and companies who are firm believers over the years. The names of the donor and the date of the donation are inscribed on the back of each gate. The cost of every gate varies depending on its size.
GRAVEYARDS AND FOXES
We underestimated Mt. Inari. Ascension to its top is not as easy as we thought it was. It took us probably two hours to conquer its slopes and have seen numerous graveyards along the way. We were also surprised to see statues of foxes in some corners that seem to guard graveyards. Later on we learned that foxes, instead of the common komainu dogs, are used at Inari Shrine because foxes, specifically white foxes, are believed to be the messenger of deity Inari.
We visited Fushimi Inari Shrine late in the afternoon and descended at dusk. It was a smart idea to hike the mountain avoiding summer heat when the sun is starting to go down. However, there was an eerie feeling considering the number of graveyards at the shrine and most tourists have left. If you feel adventurous, explore Fushimi Inari at dusk and tell me about it.
And oh, do not mistake my shirt as one of the torii gates. It is just me loving orange hues :)
Check on Google Street View below for an additional information and perspective on Fushimi Inari Taisha: