« BACK TO Q&A

Inari and Kitsune稲荷と狐

Inari and Kitsune

The fox is NOT the deity of Inari. The Inari deity is principally Uka-no-Mitama-no-Kami. The fox is the messenger of the Inari deity, like an angel. 

The first formal enshrinement of Inari Ōkami took place in 711 C.E. at Inariyama (Mount Inari). The hill is located in the suburbs of Kyoto, which became the capital of Japan on its foundation in 794.

 Inari faith began when people who led agricultural lives in Fukakusa Village started to revere Inariyama as the kannabiyama, or sacred mountain where Kami resides. It is here where the Hata clan constructed a shrine, known today as Fushimi Inari Taisha and regarded as head (sōhonsha) of all Inari shrines.

 The name “Inari” is short for ine ni naru (“reaping of rice”), and reflects the divine nature of agriculture for which Inari Ōkami was first revered.

 Following the foundation of the shrine in 711, more and more people came to revere Inari Ōkami. In 827, the Imperial House granted Inari Ōkami the court rank of jugoinoge (junior fifth rank, lower grade).Finally, in 942, Inari Ōkami was granted shōichii, the highest possible rank. The faith spread from the common people to include the court and aristocracy, and it can be found in much of the literature of the Heian period such as Kagerō Nikki (“The Mayfly Diary​”, c.974) and Makura no Sōshi (“The Pillow Book”, c.1002).

 Over time, more people in more places worshipped the spirit of Inari Ōkami. From around the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), Inari shrines were built in various parts of Japan, including our shrine, Shusse Inari Jinja, in Matsue.

 During the Edo Period (1603-1868), people began to recognize other divine aspects of Inari Ōkami in addition to agriculture. For example, many of the rising merchant class began to believe in Inari Ōkami for business success, while in coastal cities fishermen worshipped the Kami in the hope of making big catches.

Today there are around 30,000 Inari shrines in Japan. This is far more than any other kind of shrine, demonstrating the breadth of Inari Ōkami’s divine nature. In the head shrine, Fushimi Inari Taisha, the precincts are crowded with worshippers from a wide range of religious backgrounds who come to pray from all over the world. In this way, Inari faith transcends the framework of religion.

 When people think of Inari shrines, they often imagine a fox. In fact, foxes at Inari shrines are the otsukai (messengers) of Inari Ōkami, and are not worshipped themselves. They are also called shinshi (divine messengers) or kenzoku (retainers). Unlike animal foxes, they are spiritual beings that cannot be seen with one’s eyes, and so are also known as byakko (white foxes). “White” is to denote “purity,” and the whiteness of the foxes shows their closeness to the Kami, which are invisible and immaterial [i.e. pure]. This is in contrast to the physical world in which we live, characterised by impurity and “pollution.”

 Kenzoku is not only deliver the wishes of people to Inari Ōkami, but also help spread the divine virtue of the Kami amongst worshippers.

お稲荷さんと狐

 稲荷大神が京都近郊の稲荷山に御鎮座になったのは、京都が都と定められるより遙か昔、奈良時代の西暦711年と言われています。

 稲荷信仰は、深草の里で農耕生活を営んでいた人々が稲荷山を神がおられる「神奈備(かんなび)山」として崇めたことに始まります。ここに秦氏が社を建ててお祀りし、今日の稲荷神社の総本宮である伏見稲荷大社ができました。

「稲荷」という名は、稲が生えたという意味の「稲に生る」、「イネナリ」という言葉が短くなり、「イナリ」という社名になったと伝えられており、稲荷大神の御神徳である「五穀豊穣」を表しています。

 711年の御鎮座以来、人々の崇敬を集め、平安時代の西暦827年には、朝廷より「従五位下」の神階を賜り、その後、累進して、西暦942年には最高位の「正一位」となりました。「枕草子」や「蜻蛉日記」などの王朝文学への登場からもうかがえるように、庶民から朝廷に至るまで、その信仰は広がっていきました。

 やがて、各地に稲荷大神の御分霊を勧請し、お祀りする人々が増えました。鎌倉時代ごろからは、日本各地に稲荷神社が建てられ、当社の出世稲荷神社もその中の一つです。

 江戸時代には、豊穣の神様として稲荷大神への信仰が一般大衆にまで広まりました。町においては商人が商売繁盛を願い、海岸においては漁師が大漁を願って、稲荷大神をお祀りしました。

 現在では、稲荷神社は全国に約3万社あると言われています。これは、ほかの神社の数を遙かに上回るもので、稲荷大神の御神徳の広さを物語っています。伏見稲荷大社はその総本宮として崇敬を集め、日本人のみならず、外国の方々も多く訪れ、宗教の枠を超えて、境内は多くの参拝者で賑わっています。

 稲荷神社と言うと「キツネ」をイメージされる方も多いと思いますが、キツネが祀られているのではなく、キツネは稲荷大神のお使いです。神様のお使い、メッセンジャーとして、神使、眷属とも呼ばれます。動物の狐と違い、霊的な存在である「白狐(びゃっこ)」とされています。「白」とは目に見えない、「無色透明」を表しており、彼らは人々の願いを稲荷大神へ届けるだけでなく、稲荷大神の御神徳を人々に届ける役割も果たします。

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram