Magic, harmony and Japanese architecture meet at the base of the hill Inariyama, west of Kyoto, in the district of Fushimi- Ku, giving form to one of the best known landmarks in Japan: The temple of Fushimi Inari-Taisha (伏見稲荷大社).
Surrounded by the characteristic and well cared Japanese nature, we find this sacred place, considered a “must” in your visit to the country, but also internationally known thanks to the book “Memoirs of a Geisha” and its successful cinematographic adaptation, released in 2005.
This beautiful site, founded in 711, was used in the early Heian Period as the object of imperial patronage. Later, between 1871 and 1946, it was officially included in the Kanpei- Taisha, which meant being under the Government protection. Nowadays, it is one of the symbols of Japan for the uniqueness of its construction and for being the main shrine of Shintoism, native religion of the country.
The access to this place is not complicated, if you manage to learn how to use the network of public transport, which is very well organised and strictly complies its two primary features, speed and punctuality.
Thus, the spell starts once you walk out of JR’s Inari Station, in front of the Sakura-mon gate, that leads into the sanctuary of Go Honden. Behind it, more than 10,000 toriis (doors in Japanese) form a path of about four kilometers to the top of the hill, where Inari, the goddess who gives her name to this complex, is located. She is known as the patron of business, although she was originally the deity of rice. This cereal has been the main crop in Japan for a long time and, therefore, one of the icons of wealth for their people. During decades, business owners and individuals have made donations of orange-red toriis -with its prayers engraved in Japanese- or barrels of sake to the temple, in order to obtain protection and prosperity for their business.
Throughout the walk, different food stands offer Kitsune-udon, Japanese dish that gets the name from foxes, in Japanese Kitsune. These animals are represented in statues as the messengers of Inari and guardians of the temples, holding in their mouth the key that symbolically open the barns that they have to safeguard. It is also possible to observe some of the 32,000 small shrines, bunsha, inside the temple, as it is to discover, in the opposite side, a splendid bamboo forest which is totally different from the main area, but deserves as well an exploration, if you still have energy left.
Text © Alicia Jiménez
Photos © Nano Calvo
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