Jun. 02, 2017 UPDATE
A complete guide to Fushimi Inari Shrine
Part 1

The historical charm of Fushimi Inari Shrine

This part is about the history and charm of Fushimi Inari Shrine. After reading this you will surely enjoy your visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine even more.
1What is Fushimi Inari Shrine?
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine is located in the Fushimi Ward of Kyoto City. One of the most popular sightseeing spots in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine is the head shrine of the Inari shrines, and there are said to be around 30,000 sub-shrines dedicated to the god of rice, Inari, in Japan.
Many people
Many people may think of the imposing romon two-storied gate of the shrine and the “thousand torii gates” the shrine is so famous for, but the area of the shrine is vast and also includes a large part of Mt. Inari. The god enshrined at the main shrine of Fushimi Inari Shrine is Ukanomitama, sometimes also called Inari. Ukanomitama is the god of agriculture, so originally Fushimi Inari was a place to pray for a good harvest, but as the times changed, so did Fushimi Inari: now the shrine is also a place where you can pray for thriving business and well-being of your family.
2The history and myths of Fushimi Inari Shrine
many stories
There are many stories and myths about the origin of the shrine, but the most credible one seems to be the following one about the Hata clan, who immigrated to Japan from China. It is said that one day, when Irogu no Hatanokimi of the Hata clan shot an arrow on a rice cake, the rice cake turned into a white bird and flew to the top of a mountain, and rice started growing in the place where the bird landed.
Irogu no Hatanokimi
Irogu no Hatanokimi thought this was a sign from god, and build a shrine where the bird had landed, and this was the beginning of Fushimi Inari Shrine. The name “Inari” is said to come from this story; as rice in Japanese is “ina” and to grow is “naru,” these combined form the word Inari.
Heian period
Then in the Heian period (794-1185) the emperor at the time became sick, and the reason for this was thought to be because the trees of Mt. Inari had been cut down to make the Five-storied Pagoda of To-ji Temple. To appease the gods, the Imperial court made Fushimi Inari Shrine that had been a shrine of only the Hata clan, a shrine of a higher status. Because of this the shrine started to become popular also among the common people.
Muromachi period
During the Muromachi period (1336-1573) there was a big war that took place in Kyoto, and Mt. Inari and the main shrine were burned down. Afterward, the shrine was rebuilt, and the “great unifier” Toyotomi Hideyoshi played a big part in this.

After this during the Edo period (1603-1868), when the shogunate was established, Fushimi Inari Shrine started to become popular also among merchants. Since these times Fushimi Inari Shrine was not only thought of as the shrine of agriculture but also as a shrine of commerce. Because of this the number of the sub-shrines of Fushimi Inari went up dramatically, and the faith in Inari spread all over Japan.
Meiji Restoration
When the time period of the shogunate was heading to its end in the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, there was a war in Kyoto between the shogunate and the pro-emperor forces, but the war ended soon and Fushimi Inari Shrine was saved from further damage.
shinbutsu bunri
However, during the “shinbutsu bunri” movement to separate Shintoism from Buddhism, the culturally important Buddhist hall and the Buddhist statues at it were destroyed. But it the shrine itself did not decline and continues to be a world-renowned sightseeing destination.
3Inari and the foxes
god of rice
Fushimi Inari Shrine enshrines the god of rice, Inari, but the shrine is also famous for foxes. You can buy cookies with the face of a fox on them near the shrine, and there are ema plaques sold at the shrine with pictures of foxes in them, and the fortune slips of the shrine can be found inside an earthenware fox. These and the statues of foxes all over the shrine are there because foxes are thought to be the messengers of Inari.
These foxes are not like the foxes you can see in the forest; these foxes are invisible and are thought to be of the rank of gods. Of late many people mistakenly think that Inari is a fox, but actually, the foxes are the messengers of Inari.
all types of foxes
There are all types of foxes on the grounds of the shrine, many of them in interesting poses, and most of them have something in their mouths. Try to find out how many variations there are when you go to Fushimi Inari.
4The charm of Fushimi Inari Shrine
The greatest allure
The greatest allure of Fushimi Inari Shrine has to be the “Senbon torii,” the thousand torii gates. The sight of the vermillion torii gates continuing one after the other is mysterious and something you will be hard pressed to forget. But, why are there this many torii gates?
These torii gates
These torii gates were all gifted to the shrine in hopes that the giver’s wishes be granted, by both ordinary people and companies. If you look behind the torii gates, you can see the names of the people and companies. There are big and small torii gates (the price of a torii gate also depends on its size), and the sight of the vivid vermillion torii gates continuing on and on is magnificent.
One other great thing
One other great thing about Fushimi Inari Shrine is the hiking opportunity it offers. You have really been to Fushimi Inari Shrine if you climb to the top of the mountain that the route continues up to after the thousand torii gates.
Mt. Inari
Mt. Inari is 233 meters above sea level, so as a mountain it is not very big, but the four-kilometer hiking course takes two hours to complete, so it is a true hiking course. There are many sub-shrines and places where you can have a break and a cup of tea, and gaze at the great view over Kyoto city. If you have time, I hope you will also consider a hike.

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