鳥居 torii—shrine gate

There is a very special and important shrine called Fushimi Inari Taisha in the mountains near Kyoto.

DSC_1375

What makes it special is its thousands and thousands of torii shrine gates.

DSC_1388

The shrine includes the whole mountain, and the paths and steps leading all the way to the summit are lined with these gates.

DSC_1431

There are so many torii mounted so close together along the path that in many places it feels like walking through a tunnel.

WP_20140419_006

DSC_1393

At one point we came across a couple having wedding photos taken.

(My smartphone camera seems to have coped poorly with the unusual colour of the setting, compensating for the predominantly red surroundings by giving the daylight a bluish tinge. The photos taken by Yuko using her DSLR came out better, so we can hope the couple’s wedding photos turned out well also.)

WP_20140419_014

Why are there so many gates? The reason is that this is an Inari shrine, a shrine dedicated to the god of fertility and industry. People show their gratitude for success in business by donating a gate to this god. The name of the person and the date are inscribed on the uprights of the gate.

DSC_1472

The gates are painted or lacquered in a colour called 朱色 shu-iro—vermilion. There is variation between the shiny finish of the newest gates and those that have faded over 5 or 10 years to a pale whitish pink. We didn’t see any gates older than about 20 years.

As well as torii gates, Inari shrines are very strongly associated with foxes. Every Inari shrine, however small (for example the one on the roof of my office building in Osaka), has a pair of stone fox guardians, usually holding symbolic objects like a scroll or a sheaf of rice.

As the foremost of all the Inari shrines in Japan, Fushimi Inari shrine has lots of fox statues.

DSC_1376 DSC_1377 DSC_1380 DSC_1381

There was also a statue of a horse god housed in a small wooden building. The floor was covered with business cards.

WP_20140419_001

The fox theme is interactive—visitors are invited to draw faces and write wishes on wooden fox masks, which are hung up and displayed outside the shrine building. WP_20140419_009 WP_20140419_010

The railway station also picks up the theme.

DSC_1368

Visitors typically walk up the hill behind the main shrine building, which meets a circular path that brings you to the summit. The walk is about 2 or 3 kilometres, and it can be a bit tiring walking up steep steps. I recommend you wear comfortable walking shoes. However it is worth the effort as there is so much of interest to see along the way, in terms of both religious significance and the beauty of the natural environment.

WP_20140419_012
DSC_1427

DSC_1470 DSC_1416

DSC_1420

DSC_1422

Photo credit: As usual Yuko took the beautiful photos using her Nikon DSLR. Some of the photos were also taken by me using my smartphone.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s