Some places are meant to be visited again, for in each time, a different experience awaits. It may be the travel companion, the seasons, or even the local people one might meet along the way. In my case for Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shrine), the difference was night and day.
My journey started by taking Keihan Main Line to Fushimi Inari (伏見稲荷) Station as opposed to the previous Inari Station of JR Line. Sitting on the upholstered seats, I somehow began to understand the obsession of Tetsudo Fan (鉄道ファン, Rail Fan/Enthusiast) has towards their national trains; as if each carries their own identities from the past, it offers a trip down memory lane, 80s, if not 70s.
Fushimi Inari Station itself is hard to be missed; bold red pillars with Fushimi Inari wordings in Kanji (Chinese characters) all over the station while Kitsune (fox), the messenger of Shinto God of Rice welcomes its guest in sitting position. Upon exiting the station, the walk that was supposed to be less than 10 minutes made longer and pleasurable as we feasted along the way, from Kitsune Udon, Inari Sushi, Yakitori (chicken skewer) to Kyozuan’s reversible tofu ice-cream.
To bump into not one but two Maiko was pure serendipity. I couldn’t help but to stare at the detailed embroidery along with colorful presentation on their kimono, the black-lacquered okobo, the hair accessories and the neckline until they went out of sight.
Stern bronze foxes (Kitsune) can be seen throughout the shrine, in which some of them hold the key to rice granaries. Representing male and female, they usually come in pairs; one on the left while the other on the right.
As Inari Okami, Shinto God of Rice now governs the modern equivalent of harvesting which is success and prosperity in business. The shrine draws thousands of businessmen seeking blessing, and in thankful for their prosperity, donation were made in the form of torii gates inscribed with their name and date on the back of the gate. The amount starts from 175 thousands yen for a small gate to 1.3 million yen for a big one. To date, the long tunnel of Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, Thousands of Torii Gates) is one of the most remarkable and iconic visions of Kyoto.
Avoid visiting these gates during midday would be the wise thing to do as they would reflect harsh sunlight from the orange-colored surface, turning anyone into a carrot (in photos).
Instead of the usual small wooden plaques on which worshippers write their wishes or prayers, Fushimi Inari Taisha selling Ema (絵馬) in the form of their iconic torii gates. The Ema will then be left hanging up at the shrine, where the gods receive them.
Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社
TEL (075) 641-7331
FAX (075) 642-2153