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Posts tagged kitsune

Inari Shrine at Yakuoin Temple on Mt. Takao

kitsune yakuoin takaosan yukuji

The grounds for this Inari Shrine are part of the Buddhist temple on Mount Takao formally known as Takao-san Yakuo-in Yuki-ji, and most commonly known as just Takaosan Yakuoin (高尾山薬王院). This place was supposedly established in 744 on the orders of Emperor Shomu as a base for Buddhism in eastern Japan. I have no way of knowing how long these torii and structures have been around, but I think it is safe to say that they are much more recent creations. This shrine has more Shinto characteristics than Buddhist ones.

Four Seasons Hotel in Fall (actually early December)

four seasons hotel tokyo japan pagoda chinzanso fall japanese maple leaves

When I last showed you the grounds of the Four Seasons Hotel (Chinzan-So), it was summer. Now, the fall foliage is making a statement.

shinto shrine four seasons hotel tokyo japan koyo autumn fall colors foliage

Kitsune Shrines and Kitsune Udon

kitsune fox engraved on shinto shrine tokyo japan 水稲荷神社

Between our apartment and Waseda University lies 水稲荷神社, an Inari Shinto Shrine I like to stroll about. As mentioned previously, Inari shrines are famous for their foxes. The above is one of the many foxes (kitsune) on the premises.

狐うどん きつねうどん kitsune udon

In most udon shops one of the kinds of udon you can order is kitsune udon, which looks like the above. Kitsune udon features 油揚げ(あぶらあげ or sweetened, fried tofu). It’s one of my favorites.

If “fox udon” isn’t for you then try “raccoon dog udon” (otherwise known as tanuki udon). Instead of 油揚げ, you’ll get 天かす (tempura batter).

I don’t know why these animal names have been given to the various udon varieties, but it is fun ordering a different animal every time to see the different toppings that arrive with your new selection.

Inari foxes

“At present, however, it is no longer possible to establish distinctions of genera in this ghostly zoology, where each species grows into every other. It is not even possible to disengage the ki or Soul of the Fox and the August-Spirit-of-Food from the confusion in which both have become hopelessly blended, under the name Inari by the vague conception of their peasant-worshippers. The old Shinto mythology is indeed quite explicit about the August-Spirit-of-Food, and quite silent upon the subject of foxes. But the peasantry in Izumo, like the peasantry of Catholic Europe, make mythology for themselves…

But these strange beliefs are swiftly passing away. Year by year more shrines of Inari crumble down, never to be rebuilt. Year by year the statuaries make fewer images of foxes. Year by year fewer victims of fox-possession are taken to the hospitals to be treated according to the best scientific methods by Japanese physicians who speak German. The cause is not to be found in the decadence of the old faiths: a superstition outlives a religion. Much less is it to be sought for in the efforts of proselytising missionaries from the West–most of whom profess an earnest belief in devils. It is purely educational. The omnipotent enemy of superstition is the public school, where the teaching of modern science is unclogged by sectarianism or prejudice; where the children of the poorest may learn the wisdom of the Occident; where there is not a boy or a girl of fourteen ignorant of the great names of Tyndall, of Darwin, of Huxley, of Herbert Spencer. The little hands that break the Fox-god’s nose in mischievous play can also write essays upon the evolution of plants and about the geology of Izumo. There is no place for ghostly foxes in the beautiful nature-world revealed by new studies to the new generation The omnipotent exorciser and reformer is the Kodomo [child].” (Lafcadio Hearn, 1894, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, pp. 321, 341)

Luckily, in the 110+ years since Hearn wrote the above, the foxes (kitsune) haven’t all been destroyed or forgotten at Inari shrines in Japan. I took the above photo just last year at Fushimi Inari Taisha. The fox statue isn’t easy to see unless you increase the image size by clicking on it. The fox is centered in the torii gate.

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社), The End

After five posts on the topic I will lay Fushimi Inari to rest and move on to something else tomorrow.

bamboo Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

In the above photo you get a glimpse of the bamboo groves. I don’t think they have shown up in any of my pictures so far, but there is lots of bamboo at Fushimi Inari. Although not quite as impressive as the bamboo around Arashiyama and Sagano (which I will show you at some future time), there is something magical about being surrounded by bamboo. I once lived in an apartment in Japan surrounded by bamboo groves, but that’s a story for another day too.

fudoThe banners say 腰神不動明王. 不動 (fudo) is the unmovable Buddhist god and 明王 (meio) means great king. 不動明王 means that this deity is the head of the great kings. He is pretty fearsome looking and usually is well armed. Needless to say, he is a good god to have on your side for protection. Don’t piss him off though.

The 神 character on the banner means god (kami) so there isn’t much mystery there. 腰 is a bit of a puzzle however. 腰 means waist or hips. Given that some of the other characters on the banner mean protection of the lower body, I’m guessing that this is some sort of offering place for those with bad hips and legs?

As you can see, you can get help for just about anything at Fushimi Inari. It’s your one-stop offering center for just about any wishes you need to have fulfilled.

fox statue kitsune Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

Along with tons of torii, there are tons of kitsune here. I’ve shown you only a few. The foxes usually have a red bib on. The red bibs are to ward off evil. Why bibs? You’ll see them on all kinds of statues in Japan, not just foxes. The bibs are related to children, particularly in keeping evil, disease, etc. from infants and small kids.

In the background you can also see some frog statues with the red bibs on. This place really covers all the bases.

The foxes usually have something in their mouths. As the symbol of the harvest (grains, rice, cereals, etc.), that something is frequently a key to the grain storehouse.

shinto prayer Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

In the above picture my daughter is getting into the Shinto way of things. I asked her what she wished for, and she said, “to come back to Japan.” It looks like that is going to happen so this Shinto stuff seems to work!

You can see some more shimenawa in this shot.

tanuki Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

My son immediately became a fan of tanuki (Japanese racoon dog) and now has one sitting on his shelf back home in Oregon. You can find a wide variety of lucky charms at Fushimi Inari. In this picture alone you can see tanuki, maneki neko (beckoning cat with raised paw), kaeru (frog), fukuro (owl), and daruma (達磨, dharma doll).

Fushimi Inari Taisha is about the only major shrine in the Kyoto area that is completely free. Directions are very simple as it is right next to the train station with the same name. Here is a map.

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社), Part IV of V

I finished sorting through my Fushimi Inari pictures and, although difficult to do so, cut the remaining pictures I will share with you down to seven. You’ll get three today and the last four tomorrow. (Remember that these pictures look far better if you click on them. Also, if you have a monitor with screen resolution settings of something higher than 1024 x 768 and your browser maximized you’ll have better results.)

restaurant Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

After walking (generally upwards) through a few hundred yards worth of torii we came upon an empty restaurant. We hadn’t eaten breakfast yet so this was perfect. The setting for the eating place was spectacular. We could look out over the groves of trees, bamboo, and torii gates while eating in this peaceful setting. We were perched slightly above everything so the views were wonderful.

In the above photograph you can see the tokonoma (床の間 or decorative alcove usually featuring a scroll) with ikebana (生け花 or flower arrangement) and also some reserved tables (予約席). The floor is made of tatami (畳) mats.

eating at Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

inarizushiThe lighting in the above picture is not so good, but you can sort of see how marvelous the views are from this restaurant.

What does one eat at the main Inari shrine dedicated to kitsune? We ordered inarizushi and kitsune udon of course.

kitsune udonThe food was good and my daughter (pictured above with me) now considers inarizushi to be her favorite food. I enjoyed talking in Japanese with the old lady from across the road. It was from her house that the food came. I said this was a restaurant, but it wasn’t in the typical sense as no food preparations went on there. All of the food was cooked and brought over from the house across the dirt path. This place was simply for eating.

Japanese Lantern Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

After eating we headed down the path instead of farther up. We didn’t actually make it to the main shrine at the top of the hill, but that just means we have to go back someday to explore in more detail. 😉 We were departing the country in a few hours so we didn’t have time to take all of the paths.

The way down was a different path than the way up and featured many shrines (even a Buddhist one or two). The Shinto one pictured above has a plaque that says 玉姫大社 (jewel princess big shrine or tamahimetaisha). 玉姫 has to do with wedding places so I’m guessing this shrine has something to do with weddings; perhaps offerings are left here to wish for a successful marriage. Tamahime Taisha featured the first of the many Japanese lanterns we were about to see along this exit path.