Climbing the Lower Slopes of Mount Inari

As the god of rice, merchants, swordsmiths, fertility, foxes, and many other things, Inari Okami’s presence is ubiquitous in Shinto worship. Over ten thousand Japanese shrines have altars dedicated to Inari, but Fushimi Inari Taisha, south of Kyoto, is Japan’s largest and most important Inari shrine. For the last few weeks, I’ve been blogging an extended “visit” to Fushimi Inari, starting at the shrine’s main entrance, proceeding past the main altar, and finally (today) starting the climb up Mount Inari itself. Fushimi Inari is famous for its thousands of bright red torii – gates that traditionally mark the entrance to a Shinto sacred space.  The entrance

Read more

Leaving Bad Luck Behind You – Shinto Style

Most Shinto shrines in Japan offer visitors the chance to receive a fortune (o-mikuji), either free of charge or (more commonly) for a nominal donation or fee. Unlike Western “fortunes,” the fortune slips at Shinto shrines sometimes foretell negative futures as well as positive ones. Traditionally, worshippers tie these negative fortunes to a pine tree or rack of wires at the shrine, set up for this purpose. According to Shinto belief, a negative o-mikuji tied to a tree or wires will remain at the shrine and not follow the worshipper home — meaning it won’t come true.

Read more

Noh Stage at Fushimi Inari Taisha

Nō drama (sometimes Romanized as “Noh”) is a Japanese art that originated in the 14th century. Performers wear masks, and perform in a highly ritualized manner on stages that haven’t changed much in five hundred years. This stage, located at Fushimi Inari Shrine (just south of Kyoto) dates back several hundred years, and features in my upcoming Hiro Hattori novel, The Ninja’s Daughter (which releases from Seventh Street Books on August 2):

Read more

Walking the (Writer’s) Sacred Mountain

On my recent trip to Japan, I visited Fushimi Inari Taisha, the primary Shinto shrine for worship of Inari Okami (one of the principal Shinto deities). I’ll write about that experience in more detail in the weeks to come, but today I’m riffing on the theme in a different way. On days like that, it seems we’ll never clear the bottom, or reach the rarefied air that other successful writers seem to enjoy. Even after publication, sometimes the writing path seems insurmountably steep, and the obstacles we thought we left behind us…well, they keep cropping up in unexpected places. There’s no view out from

Read more