Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fushimi Shrine

Located about 2km south-east of Kyoto station, Fushimi Inari Taisha is without doubt the largest and most impressive shrine in Japan.
Fushimi Inari Taisha was founded in the 8th century by the Hata family and is the head shrine of no less than 30,000 branch shrines nationwide. The sancturay is composed of several buildings, including the Sakura-mon Gate and Go-Honden Shrine, followed by a 4km tunnel made of thousands of red gates making their way through the woods.
The 4km walk through the torii tunnel to the top of the Inari-san hill can be a strenuous one, especially in the heat of summer. That does not discourage some joggers to use the place as a training ground, at the stupefaction of tourists. Two large ponds and several small waterfalls can be found in the maze of torii, depending on which path you decide to follow.
Statues of menacing foxes, said to have the magic power to take possession of human spirits, alternate with torii gates. The fox is however reverred to as the god of harvest (rice and other cereals), and is often seen carrying a key in his mouth, which is for the rice granary. Foxes are said to love rice balls rolled in fried tofu, which are called for that reason "o-inari-san". They can be purchased in about any sushi shops.
Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha in the late afternoon as the sun slowly sets can be a thrilling experience and is definitely recommended for those believing in the "spirits of the forest".

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