Certain places make you ask questions like: Is this real? Am I really here? Is that man really wearing a Japanese girl’s school uniform? And the answers are: Yes, Fushimi Inari Taisha is real. I was really there. And there really was a grown man wearing a school girl’s outfit. Hair in pigtails. Goatee unshaved. Short skirt. Knee-high socks. My deepest regret is not taking a photo. All I could do was say, “Ah, you look so pretty!” as I passed him. He mumbled his thank you while nodding. I couldn’t tell if he blushed or if it was just the vermilion torii reflecting on his skin. Apparently he was just posing for a photographer. I wish I could see how it turned out.
Fushimi Inari Taisha is the most important Shinto shrine for Inari, God of Rice. The thousands of torii that cover the hiking trails represent donations made by businesses. The hiking trail leads you up the sacred mountain of Inari where you are rewarded with a view of Kyoto. There are smaller shrines along the way and food stalls to keep you going.
Here you will find several statues and images of kitsune (foxes). They are messengers of Inari and some of them hold the keys to the rice granary.
In the movie version of Memoirs of a Geisha, there’s a shot of young Chiyo running under the rows of torii. She goes to the shrine to pray that she become a geisha someday so she could see the Chairman once again. So I made my own prayer asking Inari to bring me back to Japan someday…and maybe introduce me to Ken Watanabe too.