Sight Seeing

Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto

fushimi inari taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha is a shrine located in Fushimiku, Kyoto. It is the head shrine of all thirty thousand “Inari Jinja” Shrine across Japan. Inari Jinja shrine is one of the most popular type of shrine which enshrine Inarishin (God of Inari) and the most of them are symbolized with vermilion Torii gate and white fox which is considered to be a divine messenger. Inari Jinja is closely connected to ordinary people’s everyday life, it is affectionately called “Oinarisan”. And the origin of this cult of Inari is in Inari Mountain and Fushimi Inari Taisha.

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The origin is way back in 711 when Irokono Hatanokimi enshrined Inari Daimyojin (the great god of Inari) in Inari Mountain by an imperial order. Because the day he enshrined the God was said to be on Hatsuuma, the first “Day of Horse” in February, it was determined as a traditional day for worship at all the Inari Shrine. Therefore many worshippers from all over the country come visit to Fushimi Inari Taisha on the Hatsuuma every year. There is no record about how the original shrine building was built or how the shrine was organized because almost everything was burnt down in the Onin War, however it is said that right after the original shrine building was burnt down, a temporary building was built. And in later 15th century, under syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism, Aizenji Temple which was a brunch temple of Toji Temple was built within the premises of the shrine. This Aizenji Temple used to control construction and maintenance of Fushimi Inari Taisha’s shrine buildings. In 1492 the main shrine building was reconstructed and in 1499, all the five gods were enshrined back in the main building of the shrine. However under the Meiji Restoration, separation of Shinto and Buddhism was determined therefore Aizenji Temple and other Buddhist temple buildings and statues of Buddha existed in the premises of the shrine were all abandoned.
When Hideyoshi Toyotomi succeeded to unify the country, he built the castle in the town of Fushimi and its castle town was organized together as well. This transformation brought a big change to Fushimi area. Even though Fushimi Inari Taisha was not located within the castle town, the development brought many opportunity for the shrine to gain and expand its recognition and reputation from local to nationwide. Moreover, Hideyoshi’s high respect to Fushimi Inari Taisha accelerated the development of the shrine.
Because the Gods of Fushimi Inari Taisha is believed to grant overall good luck including bumper crops, prosperous business, successful career, and so on, it matched to Hideyoshi’s bright, cheerful, and humorous personality. He devoutly believed in Fushimi Inari Taisha so much enough to transfer a God of Inari from the shrine to Jurakudai Mansion when it was first built in Kyoto in 1587.
Also in 1588, he prayed at Fushimi Inari Taisha for his mother to heal from her sickness, and promised the shrine to offer additional lands to expand its premises. Fushimi Inari Taisha executed grand prayer session and his mother were healed completely. The result made Hideyoshi respect and worship the shrine even higher and deeper, he began to fully support reconstruction of the shrine. Present Sakuramon gate was built by Hideyoshi under this reconstruction. This reconstruction by Hideyoshi accelerate the organization of the shrine and it was scaled up to almost the same scale as the present shrine. Later, the country was completely unified in peace, the cult of Inari, which keeps a hope for present luck and happiness was spread broader and bigger. Furthermore, visitors to Fushimi Inari Taisha gained its number more and more every year.

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When Japanese people hear the word “Oinarisan”, most of them instantly think about a fox. Japanese shrine usually accompanied with certain animal images as its divine messengers for example, a Cock at Grand Ise Jingu, a deer at Kasuga Taisha Shrine, a monkey at Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, and a pigeon at Hachimangu. However a fox at Oinarisan is not only a divine messenger but also a part of a God with specially given qualification called “Kenzoku”.
There even is a legendary story of how a fox became a divine messenger of Fushimi Inari Taisha.
In early Heian Period, there is a couple of white fox lived in north suburb of Heian Palace. Both husband and wife were very pleasant and always wished to devote themselves for the public good. However just because they were only brute, they knew their wish would not be granted at all. So then one day the couple decided to take their five baby foxes along with them to Inari Mountain to pray for their wish to be granted. Then the God started to speak to them saying “your wish is granted! From now on, as my messenger for a long long time, must help my visitors and worshippers and give them a mercy”. The couple moved to live in Inari Mountain and devoted their life to return the favor to the God of Inari. Male fox was named as Osusuki and female fox was named Akomachi given by the God.

In the Inari Mountain, there are about ten thousands Torii gate dedicated by worshippers. Especially the spot called “Senbon Torii” (thousand Torii gate) is a highlight where thousands Torii gates are closely lined up one after another with slight space in between creating a breathtaking vermillion tunnel. The tradition of dedicating Torii began in Edo Period and it still continues today. Torii can be dedicated from 175000yen for the smallest one.
Recent years, Fushimi Inari Taisha is becoming more and more famous as sightseeing spot visited by foreign visitors. It was ranked top in “Japan’s most popular sightseeing spot for foreign visitors” researched by a major travel information website. Fushimi Inari Taisha has been not only comforting Japanese people for a long time but also attracting foreign visitors today with its beautiful appearance and its concept of being a worship place where all gods, nature, and human can live happily together.

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[How to get there]
Fushimi Inari Shrine is located just outside JR Inari Station.

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