Japan – Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine

At the Fushimi Inari Shrine you can walk up to Mount Inari through the Senbon Torii or ‘thousands of gates’. The sun emerged from behind the clouds this morning making photographs more easy to take, notwithstanding the many many people who were there.

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Inari is one of the most important kami or spirit gods in the Shinto religion. The name means ‘carrying rice’ or ‘rice load’. She seems to take either a male or a female form and oversees a large portfolio that includes general prosperity, rice (which includes sake), tea, fertility and foxes. Foxes or kitsune are the messengers of Inari.

Foxes certainly feature here. Many fox statues are depicted holding symbolic objects such as sheafs of rice or keys. They are adorned with red votive or offering bibs called yodarekake which translates literally as dribble hang.

The small wooden tablets that are available at many temples in Japan are in the shape of fox heads here. You draw a face on the front and write your wish on the back before hanging it. Some also leave offerings of aburaage. According to folklore, real foxes are quite fond of this deep-fried tofu.

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