Toyokawa Inari along with Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto and Yutoku Inari Shrine in Saga Prefecture in Kyushu are the three big inari shrines in Japan. Inari is primarily the god of the harvest, but as with most of the Shinto kami (gods), it has been adopted and worshipped in towns and cities as the god of commerce and good fortune. The fox is the messenger of Inari.
The complex is a mix of Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine buildings. The Zen temple Myogonji came first and dates from 1441, though it was moved to the present location in 1689. The building visitors see today is actually from the 1830s as the original was destroyed in a fire. There is a stone monolith on the left dedicated to Taneda Santoka (1882-1940) a latter-day Basho - a wandering haiku poet and dedicated sake drinker who hit the road and the bottle after his family's sake business hit the wall.
Other features of note on the site are the Toyokawa Inari Honden (main hall) made completely of zelkova wood and next to it the Myogon Temple Garden with requisite carp and turtle pond.
Behind the main buildings through the Tsutenro camphor wooden corridor are forest paths lined with Senbon Nobori streamers. The flags are purchased by supplicants wishing for good fortune - in business, in exams or in love.
The winding trails lead to the former main shrine of Toyokawa Inari, now called the Okunoin, which was built with study earth and plaster walls like a store house to avoid fire damage. To the right is Reiko-zuka, a bizarre space with hundreds of fox-gods offered by worshippers over the years in the hope of good luck.
Toyokawa Inari receives over 6 million visitors a year, with many coming at New Year and for the Spring (May 4-5) and Autumn (November 22-23) festivals. Large 5m-tall, 50kg paper lanterns lit with huge candles are paraded at the Autumn festival.
Just on the left through the main Somon entrance gate is the rather quirky Jihokan Museum (Tel: 0533 85 2030; Admission 400 yen) with an eclectic display of Edo Period hanging scrolls, folding screens, Buddhist statues, a piece of Gandharan sculpture and some beautiful wooden board games including a Japanese version of backgammon. The highlight though is an exquisite inlaid, wooden palanquin (norimono) obviously purchased for a woman of substance.
1 Toyokawa-cho, Toyokawa-shi, Aichi Prefecture
From Nagoya Meitetsu Station take a Meitetsu Line train east and change at Ko for the Meitetsu Toyokawa Line for Toyokawa Inari.
Alternatively take a JR Iida Line train from Toyohashi. The Toyokawa JR And Meitetsu Stations are next to each other.
Toyokawa Inari is a short 5-10 minute walk to your left. The tourist office is straight ahead from the station.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007