Soul of the Garden

Images of Japan: Fushimi-Iniri Taisha

Fushimi-Iniri is an ancient Shinto shrine that honors the spirits of agriculture (rice) and prosperity.  The veneration of Iniri is common throughout Japan and Fushimi-Iniri is the primary temple dedicated to this purpose. Iniri is often depicted as a either a woman carrying stalks of rice or as an old man carrying sacks of rice grain. Typically, these depictions are accompanied by foxes who are seen as protectors of the grain and messengers of the spirits. At Fushimi-Iniri, worshippers have left thousands of vermillion (the color of the fox) tori gates as tokens of their gratitude. An enormous tori gate stands an the entrance of the shrine and thousands of others line pathways that wind their way through bamboo groves up into the mountains above. Walking through this vermillion tunnel is a magical experience and should not be missed. I feel certain that Fushimi-Iniri served as one of the inspirations for Christo's "gates of New York" project. Travelers' note: Fushimi-Iniri is not far from the Tofuku-ji Temple complex and visiting the two sites together would make for a wonderful afternoon.


The entance to Fushimi-Iniri Taisha.


This beautiful pavillion stands at the center of the shrine complex.


One of the many fox "messengers" of Iniri.


A shinto priest making his way through the shrine.


Another fox with a rice stalk in his mouth.


The tunnel of tori gates with dedications inscribed on their backs.


Looking in the opposite direction you don't see the inscriptions.




The interior of the tunnel glows with the most beautiful light.


A happy visitor.


Miniature tori gates left as dedications and inscribed by hand.


Another happy visitor.


Little foxes ornamented by visitors.


The vigilant protector of the crop.

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