The Legend of Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

"Senbon torii" or the thousand torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine

Visiting a Shinto shrine is one of the must-do things when you travel to Japan. Shinto Shrines are places of worship and dwellings of the kami or the “gods.” People visit shrines to pay respect and pray for good fortune. Some are found in the center of the city, in the mountains, or some are in the forests. Shinto Shrines are an essential part of the Shinto religion of Japan.  

Torii gate leading to the Shrine

"Ema" or wooden wishing plaques

One of the famous Shinto shrines in Japan is the Fushimi Inari Shrine. It is located in Kyoto and is dedicated to the God of Rice in Shinto known as Inari. It is founded in 711, making it one of Japan’s oldest and most significant places. The shrine is situated at the foot of Mount Inari, while its famous torii gates, which are believed to be around 30,000, are lined up until the peak of the mountain. The torii gates are said to be donations from various businesses in Japan, which in return, grants them prosperity.

But now, not only business people come to Fushimi Inari Shrine for prosperity. Thousands of people have come to the shrine to pray for bountiful harvests, seeking blessings and hoping for their wishes and dreams to come true especially on New Year. Fushimi Inari Shrine is said to have over 30,000 sub-shrines all throughout Japan.

Entrance leading to the thousand rows of torii gates

There is an interesting story about the origin of the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The legend says that a long time ago, an aristocrat named Hatanoirogu was practicing archery using a mochi or rice cake as a bow. The mochi turned into a swan and flew away, and then it eventually landed on the peak of the mountain, where it transformed into rice plants and grew into rich crops. The aristocrat then believed it was a message from the gods; thus, he built a shrine on the mountain dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and agriculture. It is said that the name “Inari” comes from this story since rice in Japanese is called “ina” and grow is “naru”, combined it formed the word Inari. 

During the Heian period (794-1185), the reigning emperor became sick and people thought that the reason was that the trees of Mt. Inari were cut down to make the Five-storied pagoda of Toji Temple. To make peace with the Gods, the Imperial Court made Fushimi Inari Shrine that was a shrine only for the Hata clan also become a shrine for the higher status. Because of this, Fushimi Inari Shrine also became famous among the common people. Aside from Fushimi Inari Shrine, the prefecture itself Kyoto has also become popular because of the shrine ancient origins. Due to its popularity, Japan's capital was moved from Nara to Kyoto.

Fox statue near the entrance of the Shrine

The Foxes at Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine is also famous for foxes. You can find many different kinds of foxes all over the shrine be it statues, cookies, wooden wishing plaques, or the fortune slips. It is said that foxes are the messengers of Inari. They are not the usual foxes that you can see in the forest but they are invisible foxes who serve the gods. You can try to look out for the different foxes inside the Shrine with different poses where most of them have keys in their mouths which is said to be keys of rice granaries which they protect.

A giant torii gate at the Shrine's entrance

Nowadays, Fushimi Inari Shrine is flocked with thousands of tourists every year. We at Rakso Travel offer tour packages which include a visit to this magnificent shrine. You may check out the below links for our group tour packages.

Uniquely Osaka

Japan Escapade


We hope to bring you there soon!

Blog Contributed by Bern Valdez

Photos by: Rakso Travel


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