Fushimi Inari Shrine

Kyoto, Japan

The Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shrine), at the base of Inari Mountain (Inari-san), is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and rice wine (sake). There are said to be as many as 40,000 Inari shrines in Japan, reflecting the paramount importance of rice at all times in Japanese society. Of these, Fushimi Inari is by far the best known. Its origins go back to the early Heian period (9th century), when Kukai had it moved to its present location in order to protect the temple of To-ji. Buddhist temples in Japan are often associated with Shinto shrines, in a tradition called jingu-ji that is explained by saying that the kami of the shrine "protect" the temple. A more prosaic explanation refers to the process of accommodation between Shinto and the newer Buddhist religion (see Asakusa Shrine for another example).

The main gate of the shrine, pictured here, is flanked by statues of the fox, messenger of Inari.