There is a very special and important shrine called Fushimi Inari Taisha in the mountains near Kyoto.
What makes it special is its thousands and thousands of torii shrine gates.
The shrine includes the whole mountain, and the paths and steps leading all the way to the summit are lined with these gates.
There are so many torii mounted so close together along the path that in many places it feels like walking through a tunnel.
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.)
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.
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.
There was also a statue of a horse god housed in a small wooden building. The floor was covered with business cards.
The railway station also picks up the theme.
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.
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.