Monday, September 05, 2011

More Japan: Fushimi Inari-taisha

I realize I have a lot to catch up on. This last month of 100 degree weather has inspired much laziness around these parts.

Time to wrap up Japan! Only a couple more posts to go!

On our last full day in Kyoto, we started at the Fushimi Inari-taisha, the head Inari shrine in Japan.

I already posted the photos below of this shrine:

This shrine is well known for the hundreds of torii, or gates, lining the mountain path up to the three head shrines. These torii are actually found everywhere in Kyoto:

But nothing compares to the ones at Fushimi:

So why all the torii? And what of the inscriptions?

One of the difficult things about traveling in Japan is that most things are in Japanese. All week, as we visited Kyoto's temples and shrines, we were often left clueless as to the rituals and purpose of all the many elements inside. Thankfully, at Fushimi, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a willing and unexpected guide.

The older Japanese man on the left is a Buddhist priest who was at the shrine with his student, on the right, to worship that day. And after he struck up a conversation, we decided to hike all the way up the mountain with them since they offered to come with us. He spoke pretty good English, and so we had many of our questions answered by this very kind man.

The torii lining the mountain path have all been bought and paid for by patrons. The engravings on the gates are the names of the families, companies, etc. who have paid to install the shrine. The patrons enjoy added "blessings" by donating their funds for new gates. All the torii were in various states of deterioration, and the Buddhist priest told us that there's a long waiting list of patrons waiting for their turn to fund a new wooden torii. Fascinating stuff!

Also on the Fushiumi shrines are literally thousands of family shrines.

Most of the people at the shrine were Japanese people visting and praying at their own family shrines. Since Fushimi is the main Shinto shrine in Japan, it's a very popular place to have your own shrine.

Our two friends spent some time chanting/praying at the three main shrines on the mountain.

We felt incredibly privileged to meet this man, who's name unfortunately eludes me now. He was very kind to a couple of Americans who had little idea of all that the Japanese culture entails and had lots of questions. This morning, which lasted much longer than we had planned for, was definitely the highlights our of trip.

Stay tuned for what should be my last Japan post!