A longing for good sushi has brought us to a tiny village at the edge of Kyoto. Instead of sushi, we find a temple.
A giant red temple.
Five Minutes Ago
Let’s rewind: Five minutes ago, we were walking through Inari, a small town on Kyoto’s outskirts, on a quest for the sushi that bears the town’s name. While the sushi has proven elusive, we have discovered that the people of this town really like foxes. We pressed on through the town until we arrived at the entrance to the temple that we now stand before.
Read the full backstory: Paying a Visit to the Fox of Inari Town
Surrounded at the Gates
We are not alone at the temple’s gates. Vendors stand behind brightly-colored stalls, bewitching passer-by’s with tempting bite-sized delicacies like senbei and takoyaki before entering the solemn shrine.
We are undeterred by their siren song and pass through the fray unscathed. It’s easy to stay focused when you’re standing in the shadow of a huge temple as red as the Golden Gate Bridge.
Temple of the Fox
We thought that there were a lot of foxes in the town below, but it’s nothing compared to what we see once we enter the temple. Foxes stand guard up on high throughout the temple’s grounds. In their mouths, they hold keys to rice storehouses– a symbol of the fox deity’s importance to rice farmers.
The fox god Inari is also the god of business prosperity, and as such, the long path to the inner shrine is covered by thousands of bright red torii gates that have been donated by businesses from around the country.
The torii tunnel is so red that we are bathed in a red glow as we walk down the path under these gates.
The Dark Path
Something catches my eye as we pass a gap in the torii tunnel– an unmarked path. The path takes a hard left into the shadows.
We step through the gap in the tunnel and head into the shadows. We turn the corner and find a short stone path that quickly bends out of sight.
Around the bend, old shrines long since abandoned stand silently along the path. Moments later, the stone path gives way and we find ourselves walking on a dirt path covered with dry leaves surrounded by a dense bamboo forest. All is silent, save for the intermittent sounds of hollow bamboo stalks knocking against each other as the sway in the gentle breeze.
The light grows dim as we progress deeper into the bamboo forest, making it difficult to get a good bearing on our location or our progress. The forest is eerily silent yet peaceful at the same time.
After some time, we spot an old wooden shed amidst the bamboo stalks. We make for the shed, as it is the first sign of life we’ve seen for some time. However, before we reach the shed, a rickety stairway leading up a small incline appears to our left.
At the top of the stairs, several small shrines reveal themselves. They are older and less ornate than the main shrine below the forest, yet they are still well maintained and cared for.
After a short rest, we depart from the small shrines and head back down the stairs. The old shed is now nowhere to be seen, but we see some light up ahead coming from around the corner…