Takayama Inari (高 山 稲 荷 神 社) is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the goddess Inari Ōkami. It stands on a hill at Tsugaru city, northern Japan, a few kilometres north-east of Aomori.
Takayama Inari: the Fushimi Inari of the north
Takayama Inari shrine seems to have been founded in the Kamakura period (1185–1333). The powerful Ando clan that ruled the region at the time are thought to have built it as a place of prayer. It was once called “San-oh-jinja”, but renamed at the close of the Edo era (mid-19th century).
The winding path through the scarlet-red torii gates, a feature common to all Japan’s Inari shrines, is especially remarkable here.
This site is dedicated to productive harvests, safety at sea and business acumen. Many farmers, merchants and managers come to pray and make offerings for the success of their ventures.
A smaller version of the famed Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, the Takayama Inari Jinja is known as the “Fushimi Inari of the north”. It has only about 200 red gates, whereas in Kyoto there are over 10,000.
The unique path to the summit is called the “Senbon-Torii” (千 本 鳥 居) although in neither shrine are there 1,000 torii (senbon 千 本 = 1,000). The term actually refers to a “torii corridor” or “plethora of torii”, without a precise number.
Each of these red gates is an offering to the shrine from a believer, so the path has gradually extended over time.
Another characteristic of the Inari shrines is the omnipresence of foxes, the divine messengers.
The goddess Inari Okami
Inari Ōkami (稲 荷 大 神) is the Japanese kami (Shinto deity or spirit) of foxes, rice, fertility, sake, agriculture, industry, prosperity and success … no less!
Inari is sometimes represented in masculine, feminine or androgynous form. Sometimes alone, sometimes considered a trio or a collective of five kamis.
The immaculate white foxes are her messengers.
The legend goes that Inari arrived in Japan at the time of the country’s creation. Descending from the heavens riding on a white fox, she carried in her hands sheaves of cereal and grain which were offered to mankind.
Inari is a popular deity in Japan, with around 32,000 shrines thought to be dedicated to her throughout the archipelago. Also present in popular culture, often appearing in manga and anime.
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