Japan

Inari-Jinja

Back In Matsue, one of the most atmospheric shrines we went to was Inari Jinja. Up a huge flight of stone stairs, was this shrine absolutely full of foxes. Everywhere you walked through this shrine in the forest, large and small foxes watch you which was as unnerving as it was impressive. Some people find foxes quite frightening because of folklore and legend telling stories of foxes tricking people, but I found it quite a comforting place; foxes are messengers to the gods and this particular shrine is an important part of a huge local festival.

The festival centres around hopes for a good harvest and is held every 12 years. A portable shrine is carried from Inari-Jinja (the fox-shrine) across Lake Shinji to a shrine on the other side in a procession of 100 massive rowing boats. We just missed this festival so will have to wait another 12 years…

Apparently there used to be many more of the larger stone foxes standing in the forest, but they were all stolen a long time ago and can now be found, display in the British Museum…! I felt awful when Atsuko translated that final message, maybe I should start a campaign to return them…

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