In the southeast of Kyoto, set in the foothills of the Kyoto mountains,  sits a spectacular temple called the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. This shrine is particularly unique as it contains 10,000 torii gates (a gate that indicates the entrance to a holy precinct of a Shinto shrine. All are painted in vermilion red (considered an amulet against evil forces). The gates themselves are not unusual in Shinto, but the quantity is unrivaled and quite beautiful to walk through, especially if you are able to find a section with no tourists in. 2/3 of the way up see’s off most of the unfit leaving you to explore at leisure.  There are around 30,000 shrines in Japan. Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine.

As you weave in an out of the Torii gates and mini shrines ascending the 12000 steps you will see many foxes and some with red bibs on. It is very common in Shinto gods to have a similar spirit that takes the form of an animal they have a connection with. In the case of the Inari shrine it is because the familiar, referred to as a retainer, is a white fox. These white foxes are not the ones that can be seen in the surrounding mountains, as they possess special powers and are invisible. The bibs have their origins in Buddhism from Jizo Botasu (a bodhisattva of Buddhism), is believed that Jizo saved the spirits of children who died while still very young, from the demons of hell. Thus bibs that used to be worn by deceased children were tied onto Jizo statues.

Finally something we have researched regarding the white paper bows tied in and around shrines. The paper is called shide and the rope is called shimenawa. The shide represents “Lit” or “lightning” the wife of the rice plant. in ancient times it was believe crops were better when there was more lightening (there is actually some science behind this that you can look at, but essentially it is true. Therefore lightening is said to have good luck properties, so people write respects or prayers for good fortune on them.

Just so you are under no illusion that a higher force maintains all of these structures, we found the guys who does. Obviously, he was sat down taking a break, pondering his endless task.

 

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