Inari, Japan’s “Fox God”

Small Inari shrine, featuring miniature torii and many fox statues. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

4. Inari shrines are distinctive

Inari shrines are probably the easiest type of Shinto shrine to identify in Japan due to their striking characteristics. Firstly, look at the colour scheme; if you can see plenty of vermilion red, perhaps mixed in with white, you’re probably looking at an Inari shrine. Secondly are the torii. Most kinds of Shinto shrines have one or two torii – the arch representing a gateway between the mundane and sacred worlds. But at Inari shrines torii are particularly numerous, sometimes grouped together in long tunnels. The practice of presenting miniature torii as an offering is also associated more commonly with Inari shrines. You may also see torii accompanied by large nobori banners bearing Inari’s name. Finally, you’ll probably find one or two of Inari’s emblems – a flaming jewel, a key, a rice plant or, of course, a pair of fox statues.

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