Rice festival at Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine

Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine in Kyoto  holds annually a rice seedling festival Monday (June 10, 2013) in which women in traditional clothing from the Heian Period will dance and other women in farming outfits and hats will plant shoots in the shrine’s sacred rice field.

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Admission is free. The festival starts at 1 p.m.

The shrine is near Inari Station on the JR Nara Line and Fushimi Inari Station on the Keihan Line.

For further info, visit  inari.jp/rite/?month=6%E6%9C%88 (in Japanese) or call (075) 641-7331.

Source: Rice festival at Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine

Historical data of the shrine excerpted from Walking With Foxes at Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine (Kyoto Visitor’s Guide) :

“Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine was founded in 711 by clan of immigrant Korean farmers who donated some of their lands to the imperial family when Kyoto was founded in 794. The shrine received imperial rank through its association with the first head of To-ji Temple, Kukai, founder of the Imperially-favored Shingon sect (headquartered at Koyasan). The temple was built with the trees from Mount Inari. Prayers to appease the gods that resided on the mountain from which the trees were taken strengthened the tie between the two sacred sites.

The main shrine buildings are some of the most stately and massive in the city. Although weddings are not conducted, infants are blessed and other, lesser ceremonies and blessings are given.”

“Located in the southeastern part of Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine is the mother shrine of the rice and business harvests. There are thousands of them throughout Japan, making it probably the most popular shrine in the entire country and there are very good reasons for its incredible popularity.

Long ago, rice was collected as taxes from peasants and used as payment to those that served the local lord. This made rice essentially Japan’s main currency. With the spectacular rise of the merchant class in the peaceful and prosperous Edo period (1600-1867) the idea of the “harvest” was extended to include the annual cycle of any business. Inari shrines became the most important place in Japan for shop owners and merchants and traders to offer prayers for success and increased prosperity.

Inari, the deity of fox

Like other major shrines in Kyoto, visitors toss a coin into the coffer, ring the bell, say a prayer and leave. But for the truly devote and superstitious, visiting Fushimi for serious devotees means walking up the mountain and praying (and paying with coins or through buying a candle or a miniature shrine torii) at every shrine along the way. This takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on the length of one’s prayers and it is possible to spend much more time if tea breaks are taken into account.

The messenger or avatar of the Fushimi deity is the fox (or inari). They always appear in pairs: one fox has a sacred jewel representing the spirit of the gods in its mouth, the other has a cylindrical object which represents the key to the rice storehouse.

A pair of guardian foxes at the main shrine gate; C Jeremy Hoare

One legend says that a handsome male fox and his attractive mate visited the shrine so frequently that local people believed them to be messengers of the gods, and enshrined them there. Another tale says that a pair of foxes were often seen romping in a nearby rice field. Their playful union produced a healthy litter, a sign of fecundity for the farmer who had watched them over the spring months. Soon an association between foxes and a good rice harvest was born. “

“The religious relationship between Japanese people and rice

The Japanese have four words for rice: ine (the plant itself), kome (grains of rice), gohan (cooked rice in a rice bowl), and raisu (cooked rice on a plate served with western dishes).

The cultivation of rice is an integral part of Japanese culture, from planting it to preparing it for the palate. Japanese can get quite emotional when any disruption of this cycle occurs whether it means mixing milk and sugar with rice to make rice pudding or the importing foreign rice. The grain demands reverence in all its manifestations. The Emperor plants rice in a sacred plot every year, a symbol of his largess and a reminder of the life-sustaining role this grain plays in the nation’s psyche. “

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