Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)

Fushimi Inari Shrine, or Fushimi Inari-taisha(伏見稲荷大社), is the head shrine for Inari, the Shinto god(kami, 神) of foxes, rice, and prosperity.

Thousands of traditional gates, or torii(鳥居), surround Fushimi Inari-taisha and cover the paths on Inari Mountain(Inari-san, 稲荷山) behind the shrine. The gates are so numerous they resemble tunnels winding over paths which lead to many smaller shrines.

Torii symbolize a transition from ordinary life into a sacred space. Sizes and designs vary slightly, but most are wooden and painted vermillion; occasional ones are unpainted stone or something else. The torii at Fushimi Inari Shrine have been donated by businesses hoping Inari’s divine powers will grant prosperity. Miniature gates are also brought by patrons and placed at shrines.

Kitsune(狐) is Japanese for fox but connotes more than an ordinary animal. In Japanese folklore, foxes are revered and respected. They are supposed to have paranormal abilities and act as messengers for Inari. Statues of foxes can be seen around Fushimi Inari Shrine, sometimes holding a key or other item. The key represents the foxes’ access to Inari’s rice granary and connection to divine prosperity.

Inari Mountain houses many shrines. The beautiful woods, artifacts, and centuries of devotion give the area an otherworldly feel. Shrines are scattered and decorated, some newer and some seemingly ancient. Mosses and decay prove nature is living and powerful; the whole place is alive with the ambient breath of the forest.