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Monday, January 05, 2009

Jozan Inari Shrine Matsue

城山稲荷神社, 松江, 島根県

If you are visiting Matsue in Shimane Prefecture, almost certainly a visit to Matsue Castle will be first on the list of sights to see.

Probably after that you will head for the Shiomi-Nawate, the street along the castle moat with a cluster of other tourist sites such as the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and Lafcadio Hearn's Old Residence.

Jozan Inari Shrine Matsue

The best way is to walk 10 mins through the Jozan Park. At any time of the year it's a pleasant walk, but in April when the cherry blossoms are blooming it's astounding as there are several hundred cherry trees in the park.

Jozan Inari Shrine Matsue, Shimane

After leaving the castle keep and descending the hill on the north side, the path joins a small road. Passing the large torii (gate) on your left that leads up to the Gokoku Shrine, you soon see a group of vermillion torii on your right.

Jozan Inari Shrine Matsue, Shimane

Pass through the torii and you see the steps leading up to Jozan Inari Shrine. Don't be put off by the long flight of stairs, as the climb will reward you with a gallery of hundreds of fox statues.

Sometimes erroneously called the "fox god", foxes are in fact the messengers of Inari. There are hundreds of the tiny white ceramic foxes, and dozens of larger stone statues, green with age, camouflaged by the greenery.

This was Lafcadio Hearn's favorite shrine, and Hearn's house is just a stone's throw away across the moat.

Jozan Inari Shrine Matsue

One your way out you may want to stop off at the priest's house and buy an ofuda. Ofudas for most shrines are simple, narrow strips of paper with writing on, but the ofuda here is large and illustrated with a unique design. An unusual souvenir or gift.

Jozan Inari is the home of the Shikinnenn Shinkousai Festival, one of three greatest boat festivals in Japan, involving more than 100 decorated boats. The festival only occurs every 10 years and the next one is from 16th May to 24th May this year (2009) with the one after that in May 2019. To get an idea of the festival head to the Matsue Horanenya Museum.

© Jake Davies & Japan Visitor.com

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