Wednesday, March 7, 2012

kyoto: fushimi inari taisha shrine

Kyoto here we come! I could have used my Kintetsu Rail Pass to get to Kyoto for free but Riley didn't want to take the Kintetsu and insisted on taking the JR so I had to pay for that and it was expensive! I paid over 1000 yen for a ticket from Osakako to Inari Station. The JR Inari Station exits right in front of the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, making the JR the most convenient public transportation to take. Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is the head shrine of Inari, the deity of rice and prosperity. This shrine is known for its red torii, sacred gates, that stretch on for miles and was featured in the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha. All around the area are fox statues, the fox being the messenger of Inari, but besides that there are no statues of the deities in the shrine. Shinto shrines are different from Buddhist temples in that there isn't any statuary and people typically pray in front of the shrines, which are believed to house the deities, rather than at altars. Every shrine has a water basin for worshipers to purify themselves before entering. First you pick up the dipper of water in your right hand and pour the water over your left hand and then transfer the dipper into your left hand and wash your right hand. Transfer the dipper back into your right hand and pour the water into your cupped left hand and rinse your mouth. Then you are suppose to tilt the dipper upward until the water pours down the handle.

I performed the purification ritual wrong because at this point I hadn't really known what the ritual was and it was just based on what my friends were saying who weren't very sure themselves. I must research this stuff before-hands! I'm pretty sure I put the dipper to my mouth, I saw someone doing that and thought it was ok! Huge faux pas- oops! Praying is also very different - not bowing three times with incense. The main hall usually has a bell and rope dangling from it where people pray. You are suppose to ring the bell, bow twice, clap your hands twice, bow once more and then throw coins into the offering box. You can also throw money in the box before doing the whole praying ritual. The reason for the bell ringing and hand clapping is to get the deity's attention. Pretty sure I did this part wrong too...

praying at the honden - main shrine
When I shook my bell it barely rang at all and I thought I must have gotten a broken bell. Then Riley yanked the bell and it gave off a loud noise so I'm assuming you must have Hulk-like strength to get these bells to ring. Sorry I guess only the strong can get their wishes listened to...

All these torii are donated by people and if you were to look back you would see the donor's names inscribed on the back of the gates. Inari shrines, like the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, usually have many torii because people who have been successful in business donate them in gratitude to Inari. While walking through the tunnel formed by the torii, the path split into two separate parallel paths of torii. A lot of the visitors were walking down the right hand side path and so I took the left hand path in order to get pictures without anyone in them. Success! Not sure why no one was taking this path but peoples soon started following us in disrupting our solitude. The two parallel paths of torii end in a clearing with another shrine. The omokaruishi, light and heavy stone, is also located here.

You stand in front of the stone lanterns and make a wish. Then you lift the stone on top of the lanterns and if the stone feels lighter than you expected, your wish will be granted. I expected the rocks to be super heavy and they were! I could barely lift them an inch above the pedestal so is my wish granted or not? Again another thing where strength plays in your favor of getting your wishes granted! After walking through some more torii gate tunnels, we reached an area with a bunch of little shops. Decided to take a break and try out some matcha or powdered green tea. I like that all the restaurants in Japan are so kitschy and nicely decorated - it makes eating such a joy to be in such a pretty atmosphere.

Choose the powder green tea and manju set for 600 yen. Manju is a Japanese confection and typically has a red bean paste filling. I'm not a fan of red bean but I liked the manju. The red bean in Japan is super smooth and is different from the red bean found in Chinese desserts making it more to my liking. Not a fan of green tea either and the matcha has a strong bitter green tea taste. Had to try it though since its such a Japanese thing to do.

The Details
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
68 Fukakusa-Yabunouchi-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
hours: open all year
admission fee: free
directions: the JR Inari Station is right in front of the shrine, 5 minute ride from Kyoto Station
can also take the Kyoto City Bus #5 from the Kyoto Bus Staton to Fushimi Inari stop which is a 13 minute bus ride and then a 7 minute walk to the shrine

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