Our first stop on arrival in Kyoto - after a flight from Nagasaki and a train from Kansai - was Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社, "the great shrine of Inari in Fushimi"). This is the head shrine of Inari Okami (稲荷大神, "Inari the great spirit"), one of the most important of the kami, the god-ish beings central to Shinto.
Inari is traditionally honored as the spirit of worldly success in all its forms: agriculture, fertility, business, and such. Like most kami, Inari takes many forms (of either gender, though more often female). But she's most commonly associated with her messenger, the fox. Hence her shrines can usually be identified by pairs of flanking fox statues and clusters of bright orange torii gates erected by local businesses hoping to gain her favor.
|If you can't afford a big one, you can buy a little one instead.|
At Fushimi Inari Taisha, though, this has gotten totally out of hand: the shrine occupies an entire hillside on the south-eastern edge of Kyoto, criss-crossed by dozens of paths under thousands upon thousands of torii.
The four of us spent about an hour wandering the wooded precincts and still barely scratched the surface of the place. It's essentially a day hike, with little clusters of noodle shops and tea shops scattered along the way, looking like they'd just dropped out of the 1790s.
Awesome little playground for the camera!