Friday, March 4, 2011

Fushimi Inari Shrine


Finally, I do something other than go to the arcade.

As is typical, the weather refused to cooperate. The fact that I could see snow falling when I got on the train at Kutsukawa should tell you how cold it was today. At least it was sunny when we got to the shrine itself; that and the hiking I did went a long way towards keeping the cold off.

Anyway. I went with my host mom to Fushimi Inari today. Apparently she has a friend who works at the gift shop there. In practice, that means "free stuff", and while it was a little embarrassing to be getting free stuff from someone I'd met literally a minute ago, I couldn't really get a word in edgewise to say "no thank you". Besides, the water came in handy.

You see, the actual main shrine at Fushimi Inari is at the base of a hill. I mean, it's called Mt. Inari, but it's not really a mountain. 233 meters is not worthy of being called a mountain, as far as I'm concerned. I did end up spending around an hour walking around up there, but I did a lot of looking around and praying at shrines along the way and other things that weren't "walk from point A to point B".

My host mom didn't even start up the hill. She got as far as the rear shrine before turning around. Of course, this was hardly the first time she'd been to Fushimi Inari, and the rear shrine is plenty far enough to see one of this shrine's major selling points...

 ... the Senbon Torii, one thousand of these easily-recognizable gates. (Apparently my host mom tried to count them once. Got up to around 300 before giving up.)

Frankly, after that I feel like not much happened. I mean, it's a shrine. I've been to plenty. There were the ema, the little wooden card things that you write a wish on and hang near the shrine. They were in the shape of a fox, since foxes are important at this particular shrine. You could draw to get a fortune; mine was excellent. There were protective charms; none really interested me.

There were these "Heavy-light Rock" things (Omokaru-ishi). Apparently if they feel light when you pick them up, then whatever you were praying for will be easily granted. I mean, they weren't impossibly heavy, I suppose. But now I forget what I was wishing for. Well, even if I remembered, I seriously doubt I'd share it here.

What else happened... Oh right. Cats.

So according to my host mom, people do abandon cats at shrines like this. Because they're, well, shrines, people don't just kill or chase away the strays. Divine messengers, and all that.

I of course realized none of this at the time. I was in my usual frame of mind. Which could probably be summed up as "here kitty kitty... aww cute kitty"... yeah, I have a weakness for cats. (Or there's this XKCD comic.)

It was an interesting little hike, and a cool shrine to be sure. But I worry that shrines are getting to the "seen it all before" stage. I don't know what to do about that. Other than find a few more (like, oh, Ise) just to confirm my suspicions...

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