Kyoto: Thousands Of Red Arches Of The Fushimi Inari Taisha | CruiseBe
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Kyoto: Thousands Of Red Arches Of The Fushimi Inari Taisha

Sergey Dolya • 7 minutes read • April 10th, 2016
In my previous articles, I wrote about the modern symbols of


, and now I will dissect the historical ones. Among them are the Rock Garden of the 

Ryoan-ji Temple

(the Temple of the Dragon at Peace), the Golden Temple (pavilion) 


and Fushimi Inari Taisha. These are the main attractions in Kyoto, and the most important places throughout Japan. By neglecting these places, your visit to the Land of the Rising Sun is not counted in karma, some say.
First, let me tell about Fushimi Inari Taisha, the delightful sanctuary of thousands of red arches, assembled in a long tunnel...
Fushimi Inari Sanctuary is not only a famous sight in Kyoto but also throughout Japan. Looking down upon trade and business, this is the main shrine of the Inari religion in the country. Tunnels of red Torii arches, a distinctive sign of any Shinto shrine, are considered to be its visiting card.
Shinto is a complex of local beliefs of different types, formed over the centuries under the influence of Buddhism:

Shinto allocates a portal, designating by similar arches, as a sacred territory. It is interesting that the word torii can be traced back to the Sanskrit torana, familiar to us as a door. The hieroglyph of the word Torii is drawn as a "bird roost", reminding us of the Shinto legend about the goddess Amaterasu, who hid inside a cave. You cannot pass through the center of the arch as this is a place of honor, intended for the gods:
Ritual baths, performed in a special spring or well/water tank, is one of the most important ceremonies conducted before visiting any shrine. Often, this place is decorated as a separate covered pavilion at the entrance:
There is a certain order to bathing: first, water is filled in a special spoon and poured on the left hand (which is associated with the divine in Shinto), then water is poured on the worldly right hand. In the next step, water is poured into the palm of the hand to rinse out the mouth but in many springs the water is undrinkable, that is why this step is often omitted. Finally, the remaining water in the spoon is gently poured over the arm in order to clean it. The scoop is then placed over the spring, bottom-up:

There are two foxes before the central arch of the sanctuary. The fox is one of the most mysterious and popular characters in Chinese and Japanese folklore; its divine nature is often mentioned in many Far Eastern fairy tales. In Japan, they are popular as ambassadors for Inari, the goddess of rice richness. Therefore, there are several foxes in the shrines dedicated to Inari, who hold different sacred objects in their mouth: a dream pearl, ears of rice, the keys to the rice barn or a scroll of Buddhist sutra:
The pilgrimage to the Shinto shrine has a special ritual. Believers donate their coins in a special offertory in a form of a wooden box with a lattice at the top. Then the gods are invoked by shaking a rope tied to bells, which hang on the eaves. After this, the man bows and claps TWICE with slightly displaced palms with respect to each other, where the left hand should be above the right one. Everything ends with one more bow. In Buddhist shrines it is not appropriate to clap, so the hands are folded evenly in prayer. Although sometimes, one can see a Japanese person clapping in front of the Buddhist chapel:
Shinto has an old tradition of presenting the shrine with a white horse for the deity to break in. Not every sanctuary can fit such horses, so for this reason, images of horses are often seen in symbolic stalls. The Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, looking down on trade and business, is a popular place for people to leave their business cards with contacts and names in cracks, hoping to get lucky:
A route of almost 3 miles (5 km), over the mountain, connects 5 main chapels and accompanies corridors in the form of tunnels out of the Torii arches. Each arch signifies someone's donation, from the largest corporations to private individuals. It should be noted that the first arch was placed by the Dentsu Company, which is the largest advertising agency in Japan:
Here’s a tunnel of 1000 torii:
Late at night is the best time for a pilgrimage here. It is quiet and even a little scary. At this time, the mystical atmosphere is not destroyed by hoards of bustling tourists. Looking straight, one can see a series of red pillars:
Donation arches have a price list. Below you can see the price list for 5-10 pillars. The diameter of the pillars is between 5-11 inches (15 to 30 cm) and the prices correspond - just remove two zeros to get the price in dollars:
One can buy a low cost arch, in a much smaller size, at the shop: 
The "ema" plates, in the form of fox muzzles, are considered to be another great feature of the Fushimi Inari Taisha. Everyone can draw a face and write wishes with their name and return address. These plates are called Ema, meaning “a picture of a horse” that depicts each person, who could not donate a horse but were able to donate a picture. Later, cyclic animals, signs, or special local characters began to be depicted instead of horses:
This is an example of plates from another shrine. It is in the form of a mishaped pumpkin, which is a popular talisman for health and longevity. However, it appeared in this shrine on another occasion: 1000 gold pumpkins was the standard number of the great Japanese ruler, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who participated in the country's unification in the late 16th century. The shrine used pumpkin shaped prayer plates in remembrance of him:
The plates here have the classic pentagon shape. Animals of each year are depicted on it.These garlands are made of 1000 cranes. Cranes are on of the symbols of longevity and 1000 is a symbol of multitude. These are evidence of strong faith given that it takes a lot of time to make 1000 origami cranes. Perhaps many remember the tragedy of Hiroshima and the story of a girl struggling with leukemia, named Sadako, who made 1000 cranes from candy wrappers: 
Author: Sergeydolya
Translated by: Gian Luka


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