I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fushimi Inari (伏見稲荷)七月六日

This was my second trip to Japan's most famous Inari shrine complex. Inari (稲荷) is the Japanese fox deity of the harvest, and, to the best of my knowledge, is worshiped because of an ancient belief that foxes were anamorphed gods in disguise. Hundreds of thousands of vermilion (due to the fact that the red-orange color was and is associated with good fortune in China) tori gates snake up the hills surrounding Fushimi Inari. Walking through them evokes a religious experience of amazement and superstition in nature that is lost in many other temples. In Japan the norm is to have a clear, stark rock garden surrounding temples. The straight edges establish an orderly sense that many primitive Japanese were trying to carve out of the wilderness. Often meetings took place in the pebble courtyards, as well as festivals, court proceedings, and even weddings, I believe. Fushimi Inari, however, represents an entirely disparate view that lauds the mountains tamelessness and encourages more chaos. Needless to say, I love it! It is easily one of my favorite places in Japan, and anyone who comes to visit can expect a trip to Inari. Even better, it's only about a thirty-minute train ride away from my home in Kusatsu, just outside of central Kyoto.

  • Click here for the official Japanese site for Fushimi Inari, unfortunately I am not finding an English version for everyone who can't read kanji (come on, you guys are smart, you can do it!). Until I find something for everyone, there are two options. 1) Bumble around with the buttons and hope for some good photos. 2) If you have Firefox there is a tool called 'rikaichan' that can translate individual words, so you can figure out a little bit. I find my little 'rikaichan' very handy sometimes.

  • I think these two guys have been battling for centuries, and their opponents' ears mark past victories.

    This is my friend Tim looking very philosophical.

    This type of scene is common at Fushimi Inari, giving it an enticingly hypnotic allure. At night when Tim and I ran through the rows of tori gates like this one I got the feeling that I was traveling through a wormhole into mystical dimensions. It was during this transcendent moment that we decided to come back to Fushimi two weeks later and have an all-night seance on the mountain. The date with the dead is in one week from yesterday (July 22nd), so we will so see what comes of this crackpot scheme.

    Best game face ever! I want this guy on my team when the gods go to war.

    He's definitely on the team too.


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