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Foxes of Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

by Bob Kerstetter

Tradition says the Shinto kami Inari sends messages by fox—きつね or 狐 in Japanese—pronounced key-tsu-neh in English.

The foxes in these photos work at Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—the Inari Grand Shrine—in Kyoto, Japan.

Front Gate Fox Messenger at Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto

Foxes—including those directly serving Inari—may help or hurt, provide benevolence or malevolence.

Coming and going with little notice, they receive both credit and blame for things they may or may not do.

Eager Female Fox Watches a Primary Gate at Fushimi Inari Taisha

While they can shift their shapes—they like masquerading as humans for mischief—they must always speak the truth.

Fushimi Inari serves as the main shrine for Inari, one of the seven gods of luck.

Eager Fox Watches a Primary Gate at Fushimi Inari Taisha

Inari Kami oversees agriculture, fertility, industry, commerce and—you guessed it—foxes.

Young Fox Watches a Pathway at Fushimi Inari Taisha

Many people honor Inari at Fushimi Inari Taisha by funding torii—shrine gates—to span the walking paths within the sacred grounds.

Vermillion Torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha

One trail enveloped in vermillion torii reaches the summit of Inari-san, the shrine mountain.

Stairs to the summit of Inari-san, the mountain at Fushimi Inari Taisha

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