Thousand gates of heaven to the spiritual place
In this article, I would like to share with you guys one very special spiritual place in this Land of cherry blossoms: Fushimi Inari Shrine. This shrine is renowned for its thousand gates in line colored in vibrant orange which creates the symbolic pathway to the main area.
Located at 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchi, Fushimi ward, Kyoto prefecture, Fushimi Inari Taisha - 伏見稲荷大社 (also called Oinari-san) is one of 30 thousand shrines worshiping the deity Inari in Japan.
Personally I think the most remarkable thing makes this place so special is the pathway created by over 10,000 orange gates spreading in 4 kilometers from the foot of the mountain to the shrine. It is also commonly known as Senbon Torii - 千本鳥居, roughly translated as "Thousand gates to the heaven"
How I get there
Fushimi Inari Taisha is located near to Inari station in Kyoto. Actually there are some options you can choose to get there from Osaka but for those who have a JR pass like I do, you can consider my solution as below:
It took me 30 minutes from Osaka to Kyoto by the JR's Sanyo line. Then I switched to the Nara line to Toufukuji station and got off at Inari station. The shrine entrance was just in front of the Inari station so it was way too convenient!
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Fushimi Inari is the most important shrines among thousand Shinto shrines and also known as the place for worshiping the Goddess Inari only. At first I had no idea and mistook it as a Fox shrine since I saw numerous fox sculptures and in Japanese, "Inari" means the fox god.
But actually, "Inari" comes from the name of the deity called Fushimi Inari Taisha whose full name is Ukanomi Tamano Okami - 宇迦之御魂大神. She is always known as the "protector of grains" in Japan who helps the farmers to have the very good crop of food and maintain the growth and sustainability of the harvest.
Hidden meaning of the fox
In some paintings in folklore books, the Goddess Ukanomi Tamano was depicted as sitting on the giant fox and visit the human world in the spring crops then stay there to support and look after the crops until harvest season in autumn.
That's why the fox has always been believed as the Goddess's message-carrier.
All the fox statues hold symbolic items as a key or a scroll in their mouths and each of those items represent one special thing of the deities. For example, the key stands for the ability of those foxes to unblock the rice granaries while the scroll means those fox sculptures will bring the wisdom to the human. There are also a bamboo for good harvest and a ball for spiritual power.
Every year, there are a large number of people coming here to pray for a year of prosperity in business and also in other things as:
- Gokoku hojo - 五穀豊穣: bounteous harvest
- Anzan - 安産: safe and easy childbirth
- Manbyo heiyu - 満病平癒: good health and being completely cured of any illness
- Gokaku kigan - 合格祈願: success in study
To make wishes come true or show one's gratitude to the deity for all dreams which are fulfilled, they bring the gate placed at the shrine. All the torii gates are mostly donated by companies, corporations and even by individuals.
As far as I know, it is not a very affordable price to donate a gate, starting from ¥400,000 up to ¥1,300,000 (approximately $3,700 up to $12,000). While other shrines may charge visitors a small amount of entrance fee to visit, Fushimi Inari is free of charge for all thanks for this generous donation.
Reason why the Japanese people choose those red gates over all others
In the Shinto religion, the Torii is considered as the gateway to the place of deities and the milestones that signals the transition from the world of human being to somewhere sacred.
Additionally, red (or orange) symbolizes the sun, the absolute power, the eternity and good things as the nation flag of Japan. That's why you are likely overwhelmed by thousand shades of red when the number of gates keep increasing. I also saw the area of cute "miniature" Torii gates which express the uniqueness of Fushimi Inari Shrine.
When walking slowly under Torri gates, my vision was fully covered by the reddish orange which made me feel like I got lost in another magically mysterious world. Even though I visited the place on the weekend and it was fairly crowded, all visitors still kept the culture of forming an orderly queue. The entranceway was quite narrow and lack of light but everyone was still moving in calm and patience which made me greatly respect this country much more than ever.
If you have a chance to visit Kyoto, definitely not forget to pay a visit to Fushimi Inari to immerse in the spectacular view of its traditional architecture and the breathtaking beauty of nature of Shintai mountain as well as pray for something good to happen to you and your beloved ones.
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