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.










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