The Mountain Subshrines of Fushimi Inari

(To start this series from the beginning, click here.)

Station 17 Fushimi Inari Taisha (2)

Visitors who climb the slopes of Fushimi Inari Taisha (shrine) pass through thousands of vermilion torii and climb many flights of stairs, but the journey to the summit features more than steps and gates. Numerous sub-shrines line the slopes, many with teahouses and restauarants as well as shrines, offering visitors a chance to stop for rest and refreshment as well as offerings and prayers.

The stations are marked with hanging signs and lanterns that not only identify the stations by number and name, but let visitors know how far they have to walk (in either direction–up or down) to reach the next one.

Station 17 Marker, Fushimi Inari

Although each station is unique, most feature large and small shrines:

Station 17 Shrine

Guardian statues (usually kitsune – the foxlike messengers of Inari) :

Station 17 Fushimi Inari Taisha (1)

And places for worshippers to leave offerings (like the small red torii in these photos, each of which is an offering for Inari) or burn candles.

Fushimi Inari Subshrine

Some of the stations, like #17, also feature purification fountains.

Dragon Fountain (Station 17)

Purification is an important part of Shintō worship; visitors are supposed to use the dipper to cleanse their hands and mouths (by spilling water into the hand and raising it to the lips – you never put your mouth directly on the dipper) before approaching the holy place to pray.

Dragon Purification Fountain

Shintō purification fountains often feature sculptures, like the dragon at Station 17 on Fushimi Inari. Since dragons are traditionally associated with water (and weather) in Japan, they’re common subjects for purification fountains.

Dragon Fountain Detail

After a stop to pray, refresh, and rest, it’s time to continue up the mountain – and when this series resumes on Friday, we’ll finally reach the summit of Mount Inari.

Into the Light

If Friday has already come and gone, click here to continue the journey!