Right next to one of my schools is a beautiful shrine. I often bike the scenic route past it – a bosky pathway flanked by dense azalea bushes and shaded by tall cherry trees. In the springtime it is spectacular with colour, vibrant reds and magentas and soft white-pinks; in the summer it is cool and green. Biking along that path during the first week of cherry blossom season was otherworldly; I vividly recall looking up the small hill to see the orange tori gate framed by feathery blossoms and a cloud-streaked sky.
On the occasion that I decide to take the route along the road, a quick glance to the right reveals to me a quiet, lovely sight:
Scattered all throughout Japanese towns are dozens of these quiet little shrines. This one, Obiki Shrine, is an inari shrine, a shinto shrine dedicated to inari ookami, a Shinto spirit. Inari ookami are lucky spirits and have been tied throughout Japanese history to foxes, rice, tea, and sake, as well as blacksmiths, warriors, and merchants. Over a third of Japanese Shinto shrines are dedicated to inari ookami.
In the front, the statues leading up to the main shrine are all foxes:
Behind the building were dozens of little spirit-houses, called hokora. Some were in relatively good shape, sporting little white foxes – kitsune – that act as the messengers for the inari ookami.
Others were much older:
It was so quiet and peaceful behind the temple, and the light was beautiful.
There was another torii gate and some steps leading down to another little shrine (the banners say shichifukujin, or “seven lucky gods”):
Obiki Shrine was a lovely, quiet break from the Tatebayashi heat. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to bike past such a beautiful place almost every day!
Until next time! またね！