Saturday, January 10, 2009

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

The image I had of Kyoto before even coming to Japan was the red tunnel of endless torii arches at Inari Taisha. They are donated by people who have been successful to the Shinto deity of fertility and agriculture. Images of her messenger the fox are also plentiful. The higher up you go, the smaller the foxes get - there are larger-than-life ones near the main gate, and tiny porcelain ones at the top of the mountain. The path is about four kilometers, but it's not strenuous - there were tiny children and tiny old people passing me up. And every step is worth it for the view at the top.

Notice the grain in his mouth - for a good harvest.

I couldn't resist taking pictures of the foxes I passed - every one is unique and interesting.

As I was going up the path there was a large group of men in long dark coats who overtook and passed me. They weren't your typical tourists - they walked briskly and didn't take pictures, as though they were on a mission. I assume they were some sort of businessmen going through a ritual trek to earn Inari's good favor.

Seeing the tunnel from one way took my breath away - and then again when I turned around and realized there is printing on the other side - every gate has a name and date of when it was donated. It's dizzying.

See the little tiny porcelain one there someone left? I bought one when I got the bottom, but I wish I'd known before and carried it up to the top to offer.

  This man and his two grandchildren are making slow progress back through the torii - mainly because the kids have to touch each one.

Even though it wasn't as huge or shiny as some shrines or temples, I think the place of tiny foxes was my favorite in Kyoto.


Interesting story about foxes - the ones who weren't messengers were often tricksters, and could shape-shift into humans. To tell if you were speaking with a real human or not, there had to be a trick greeting. That's why "Moshi moshi" is how we answer the phone - it's a phrase that a fox even in human form can't pronounce.

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