Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Whenever we go to Kyoto, we look forward to seeing Taeko. She always arrives accompanied by a sister or two or some friends who want to practice their English. This year, along with her sisters Yoshimi and Izumi, she also brought her 5 month old daughter, Wakana. What a trooper that kid is! In the 2 days she spent being carried through shrines, up and down mountains, and on and off trains, she captivated us with her smile, and she only cried once when she conked her head on a table in a restaurant.

Our first desgination in Kyoto was the Inari Taisha shrine which you may remember from "Memoirs of a Geisha" or, my personal favorite, "Lost in Translation". These pictures were taken at the main shrine at the bottom of the mountain, which is also called Inari.

The fox is regarded as the sacred messenger of the deities of the shrine, so there are many fox images here. Some of the foxes hold a precious stone in their mouths, and others hold a key. The precious stone symbolizes the spirit of the deities, and the key symbolizes the key to the rice granary. The foxes also have bushy tails to symbolize fruitful years of rice.

Everyone stops to have their pictures taken at the beginning of the torii tunnel.

The shrine has over 10,000 torii gates which snake over 4 km of the mountain. The torii are coated with vermillion lacquer and inscribed with the names of businesses and individuals who donated them.

As we climbed, the sisters took turns carrying Wakana (who preferred being carried to sitting in the carriage) and lugging the baby carriage up the steps. Walt and Yoshimi counted the number of torii we passed through until we decided we had climbed a sufficient distance. The count was 1707.

As we were heading down towards the exit, we passed this area, and pondered the significance of the frog statues. It seems that the Japanese word for frog is kaeru - a word which has the same pronounciation as the verb that means to return or come back. Consequently, the frog has become a symbol of the need to return to a holy place. I'd definitely like to return to this shrine and wander through all of the 10,000 torii gates.

We paused to rest and take some more pictures before continuing on to lunch and a visit to a nearby sake brewery.

By the end of the day, Wakana had gotten used to us, and although she wasn't totally enthusiastic, she let me hold her for a moment.