Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Beauty of Simple Repetition

~ The Shrine of ten thousand torri gates ~

One of the most memorable things we did 
during our month-long stay in Japan 
was to visit the Torii gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.

There's such beauty in simple repetition.  Astounding beauty. 

This entire mountainside shrine is dedicated to 
Inari, the Shinto God of Rice.  

For a country that exists on rice, 
this is an important place of worship.  

It has ancient origins, founded in  711 AD.  

It has an amazing feel from the very start.

Foxes were believed to be Inari's messengers, 
so there are fox statues and fox fountains and such 
sprinkled throughout the grounds.

Foxes are also the inspiration for the prayer cards, or messages, 
that are posted outside the shrine.  

We found that, while this was a universal practice at Shinto Shrines and Temples throughout Japan, the format was never exactly the same at any two Shrines. 

The torri gates that line the entire pathway are donated by business men and companies thankful for their prosperity, and the calligraphy inscribes their name and the date of donation.  

The cost starts @ 175,000 yen (around $1,466.00) for a small sized gate, 

and increases to over one million yen (over $10,000.00) for a large gate.

I think it's not that different from purchasing a brick or a pew or a songbook in our Christian realm.  

The trail winds upwards and loops around the mountain, and this was a most satisfying excursion ~ an all torri gate-covered path.  It's a 4km hike, filled with wonder and surprises and culture:  we spent the better part of 3 hours exploring the upper sanctuaries.  

While the draw here is, of course, the thousands of torri gates (there's some debate on the exact number, but it's nicknamed 'Ten Thousand Torri Gates', so we'll just go with that); and some people never venture beyond the outer sanctuary ~ 

We found the individual shrines 
and burial sites to be equally interesting.  

And there's lots of side trails and paths to explore.

There was something unique and interesting at every turn

But for the gates themselves, nothing else was repetitious.

We are now headed upwards, 
hundreds of steps and stairs and lots of climbing.

There is seemingly no end to the off-path shrines and gravesites.
Sometimes they are packed in so closely that it's 
difficult to distinguish one from the other.

And, depending on who's blessing you are striving for, 
there are gates stacked upon each other at some sites.

We figure this must be somebody important.
Mr. C was starting to do the math.....There's a whole lot of yen represented here.

 It's important to note that the (frequent) watering places designed for purification for worship are not to be confused with drinking water!

And as we are finally starting to wonder how much further, 
there's a helpful sign.

  Just 5 more 'minits' to the top of a mountain.   
I'm hoping it's the top of our mountain.

 Oh thank goodness!   We're here!   

The upkeep of such a vast property, as you can well imagine, is a huge undertaking.   

They do a good job down below of maintaining the image, but as you get up-top and on the downward side, many have fallen into disrepair and are, eventually, removed.

So up above, and particularly on the way back down the mountain, there are huge gaps now in between gates.   

The calligraphy is still painstakingly done by hand

There are a couple of little spots selling a bite of food and bottled water ~ but I wouldn't exactly call them cafe's.

This one seemed to specialize in   boiled eggs.   

Just 90 yen.

And now it's time to descend.   

We make it a practice not to tote home a bunch of souveniers, but we did purchase one of these 'Lucky Torii' to represent Kyoto  as one of our International Christmas tree ornaments.  

We've had an amazing day exploring the mountainside 
Shrine of Inari ~ home of Ten Thousand Torii Gates.  

I have learned much, not the least of which is an appreciation for the beauty of simple repetition.

Click here to take a short stroll through the torii gates

Click here to see the art of calligraphy 


  1. You look fabulous!!

    1. Thanks, I'm fulfilled and very happy exploring the globe.

  2. This is so interesting! I really enjoyed the article, the photos and of course the signs! So much detail and you capture it so well. Quite a hike to the top! This is a place I hope to see one day!

    1. I remember DS talking about how much he loved this shrine, after being there I can certainly see why. It's mesmerizing, how the gates just go on & on. It was interesting, also, to see that the majority of visitors were Japanese ~ many of them making a pilgrimage to pray for a loved one. I'll have to get DS to inscribe our little Christmas tree torri gates in Kanji before December rolls around.


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