10,000 Gates at Fushimi Inari

Just outside Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine has been around as a place of worship for 1300 years.

It is best known for its row of tori gates, whose red color is said to have powers against “supernatural powers” and also indicates the bounty of the Inari god.

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(This particular spot is featured in a scene in the film “Memoirs of a Geisha.”)

The row of torii gates developed as a custom 400 years ago as donations from businesses to express gratitude for a wish “that has come true or will come true”; there are now 10,000 torii gates within the shrine.

(Incidentally in the film, the young girl runs through the torii gates on the way to the temple to offer a coin in prayer. The scene was flashed back at the ending when her wish came true.)

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One can of course follow the gates all the way to the top of the mountain, about a couple of hours walk though lush scenery.

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A tour of Fushimi Inari won’t be complete without mentioning the white fox, said to represent Inari (god of harvest and business) who protects rice crops from the mice that eat them. A recognition of ecological balance even in the old days.

It’s a good day’s visit — to admire a cultural symbol that has weathered the centuries, or simply reconnect with nature and oneself — something of a treat in today’s fast-paced world.

(Or maybe one can simply offer a prayer of thanks for a wish that has come true or will come true.)


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