Traditional Japan: Inari shrines

Traditional Japan: Inari shrines

Since thousands of years ago, Japan has been an agricultural country. Rice is its largest crop, and rice paddies account for 55 % of Japan's farmland.


Next to the rice fields there is usually a small altar or a shrine, mainly dedicated to the deity of rice and agriculture - the god (or goddess) Inari. Its name comes from “ine nari” or “rice is cultivated”.

Inari also has the function of protecting the family and the prosperity in business, so Inari is considered the deity of life.

The Inari shrines are also built near orchards, in the mountains, forests, towns and, of course, in the cities. It is said that there are more than 30,000 Inari shrines in Japan, almost 40 % of the total number of all Shinto shrines in the country.


Inari shrines are easy to recognize by various elements. The first would be the red "torii", which is a traditional Japanese gate or arch, whose function is to mark the entrance to a sacred place. Although there are also "torii" in other types of shrines, in the case of Inari shrines, there are usually several "torii", and their color is a specific hue called vermilion. It is said that this color works as an amulet and it is also the color of the sun.

For example, Fushimi Inari Taisha, in Kyoto, the pinnacle of all Inari shrines in the country, is famous for its nearly 10,000 red torii, making it one of Japan's great icons.


The second element are two fox-shaped statues that are usually found to the left and right in front of the main altar. Even if it is just a small altar, there is usually a couple of these miniature foxes.

Foxes are such a common animal in Japan that they are even the protagonists of many legends and stories from Japanese folklore.

In spring, at the beginning of rice planting in the fields, foxes come from the mountains. They hang around the rice fields all the time, until the harvest. During this period, the foxes eat mice and other small animals that can damage the crops. In late autumn, when the harvest is over, the foxes return to the mountains. That is why foxes are seen as protectors of rice, as guardians of the crops.

In the old days, when there was no exact calendar, Japanese people believed that the gods sent foxes to teach them the timing for planting and harvesting.

Foxes became a sacred animal and are considered messengers of the god Inari. Messenger foxes are said to be white and are called “byakko”. Those foxes turn into spirits, so no one can see them.


This time at Wanderlust by T.S.L we want to share the traditional Japanese culture of Inari shrines and gift a little present to the firsts orders placed from now: a little "omikuji" figure of a fox from a very beautiful Inari shrine in Tokyo. (Gift included only while stocks last).

Also, all orders from 25,000 JPY will have WORLDWIDE FREE SHIPPING until June 25th. Use code INARI2023 at checkout.



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