Toris and Foxes @ Fushimi Inari

We literally rolled out of the Marriott at Shin Osaka station  on to the Shinkansen for a 20 min ride to Kyoto. Kyoto  is the home to innumerable Japanese temples but we  picked just  two – The Fushimi Inari and the  Kiyomizudera temple – The  largest and most prominent shrines.

While tourist brochures suggest the best time to visit Japan is the cherry blossom season around April,  the  changing colours in autumn are no less  spectacular. We visited in November as  the autumn colours  were emerging. Do not miss out the Autumn Leaves information board at KYOTO station. Yet another of the many examples of the Japanese eye for detail we came across during our trip. .colour board Kyoto

Two stops down the Nara line from Kyoto and we were at Inari station – a short walk from the  Fushimi Inari shrine.  As  we walked  along a neatly laid tree lined path to the shrine we  observed  the  vivid  autumn colours making their early appearance. You then  pass   vermilion gates or toris to  enter the main shrine. The place can get crowded and we were advised to be there early in the morning but it was well past noon when we got to the shrine. Crowded perhaps by Japanese and Western standards but nothing compared to the crowds we see in India in religious places.

Our first halt was  at the Chozuya or washing pavilion. As we learnt at the Sensoji temple devotees are expected to wash their mouth, hands and the ladle before entering the temple. We were now familiar with the sequence of ablutions – Left hand first, then right hand, wash your mouth  and finally the ladle. choyuzo Fushimi

The Fushimi Inari is the main shrine of all Inari shrines in Japan. At last count there were 33000 such shrines. In the Shinto religion  Inari is the god of rice, bountiful harvest, general well being, prosperity and success in business. Do not miss the two  foxes on either side of the entrance. Foxes are revered as they are regarded as the  messengers of the Gods and protect the shrine. These foxes have a ribbon around their neck and maybe keys in their mouth which are considered to be keys to the silos of grain which they guard!   entrance Fushimi

By the side of the main shrine are two smaller  shrines anOne more gate fushimid a large hall,  beside which is the trail leading to the top of Mount Inari. The trail is a pleasant 5 km walk  and passes through  Toris  or vermilion gate. There are foxes on guard  at intervals. The most well known and visited  of all these is the Senbon Tori or 1000 toris very close to each other forming a dense tunnel like structure. These toris are made of wood and have been donated by Japanese citizens. On each tori you will find the name of the donor and the date. The large number of Toris  is what distinguishes this shrine and is a very popular walking tour for visitor  to Kyoto. Along the picturesque trail  you will come across well preserved forests, manicured gardens and even souvenir stores. Cedar wood carvings and curios caught our fancy on the way down from Mount Inari  and we picked up some knick knacks for the folks back home.

Along the walk is a shrine of the  wishing stone. As the plaque advises that you make a wish first and guess the weight of the stone.wishing stone If the stone is lighter than what you guessed your wish would come true. While it did make interesting reading and a pleasant experience picking up the stone my “numerateness” made be understand that this process can be tweaked in the mind to achieve a 100 per cent success rate at the Oracle.  But then such logic is only for non believers. As we continued along the walk the weather turned cooler and the views got better and better. We did not walk the entire route and turned about after we had done about a third of the  trail. As we got down the hill  we were greeted by innumerable Japanese street food stalls which provide a very wide offering of vegetarian and non vegetarian street food. A well deserved treat after a long walk . We spent a good two hours at the shrine and we set out for the next part of the day’s agenda – The Arashiyama bamboo forest.

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