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