A must-see shrine in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha

February 3, 2014. It’s Setsubun Festival when we went to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.  During this time, most temples and shrines in Kyoto and Nara partake in the traditional event of Setsubun (bean-throwing festival) known to drive away demons, which are said to appear when seasons change.  We explored Fushimi Inari early morning before heading to Nara for the Setsubun Mantoro Festival in Kasuga Taisha Shrine.

Women in Kimono who partake in Setsubun
Women in Kimono who partake in Setsubun festivities
An old lady praying to the Shrine God Inari
An old lady praying to the Shrine God Inari at the main hall of Fushimi Inari Shrine

In Japan, the best way to differentiate a temple from a shrine is the presence of a huge torii gate at the entrance.  Fushimi Inari Taisha is a Shinto Shrine famous for its thousands of red torii gates lined up in the shrine grounds, forming a trail leading up to the sacred Mt. Inari. Fushimi Inari shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto God of rice. Foxes or kitsune statues are all over the shrine grounds because they are thought of as messengers of Inari.

One of the many fox statues in Fushimi Inari
A komainu (guardian) at the entrance, one of the many fox statues in Fushimi Inari
Walking Trail under the Red Torii gates
Walking Trail under the Red Torii gates
The Famous Fushimi Inari Torii Gates
The Famous Fushimi Inari Torii Gates

The thousands of torii gates were donated to the shrine by individuals and companies. The names of the donators and the date of  donation are inscribed on the back of each gate. It’s beautiful to see both sides with and without the Kanji characters.

torii up close

Names of Donators and Date of Donation t
Names of Donators and Date of Donation

Fushimi Inari Shrine is the very first Shinto Shrine that I have visited. And in most Shinto Shrines, you’ll find ema (wooden plates where visitors write their wishes) and omikuji (fortune-telling paper slips). The ema in Fushimi Inari Shrine are fox heads and small red torii gates. I did get an omikuji by shaking a wooden container and drawing up a number. I got 12, and received a paper containing my fortune. This piece of paper is then tied to a tree branch so that good fortune can come true and bad fortune can be averted. My Japanese friend told me that my omikuji meant I will have good luck. I couldn’t agree more.

My Omikuji
My Omikuji
This is where you tie your omikuji
Omikuji tied on strings to avert bad fortune
Ema - fox head and torii gate
Ema – fox head and torii gate
Close up of a red torii ema
Close up of a red torii ema

Fushimi Inari Taisha can be reached via JR Inari Station, two stations away from JR Kyoto Station along the JR Nara Line.

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