Meet our neighborhood fox shrine

This morning while Tara was gamely trying not to die from the flu shot, I armed myself with long pants, bug spray, and my trusty camera and went back to our neighborhood shrine.  (Last time I was driven away by the most aggressive flock of mosquitoes I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. I may at that time have also earned myself some seriously bad karma by killing a goodly dozen or so on sacred ground…)

This little shrine, Hikawa-jinja, is the one that sposored/led the festival parade we came across last weekend. It was founded in the 1700s by this fellow. And if the dour expression doesn’t say it all, his claim to fame is fiscal austerity so for its day this was an almost Puritan-esque shrine.

8th Tokugawa shogunate (aka Chuckles)

However, as the main shrine was hosting a wedding today that did not seem in desperate need of a gawping gaijin, I went off to explore the little shrines that dot its hillside.

Keeping watch

This is the first of the little Inari shrines. Inari is the god/dess of rice and the harvest, foxes (the divine messenger of choice), and/or fried tofu (the divine messenger’s meal of choice).  According to my read of the kanji sign, this temple got started in the mid-1700s when a man wearing armor and carrying a bow (probably an indication of his rank if I knew enough to parse it) was passing thru the neighborhood. He spotted a small statue that looked like a fox, picked it up, and decided to build a temple to Inari on the spot. (One imagines there must have been something more to the story, but it wasn’t written up there that I could tell…)

Fox guardian and trainee

These particular foxes didn’t have on the red neckerchiefs that some do, but some color is still left from last time. This little shrine sits atop a small grotto where worshippers have left little tiny fox statues of their own.

Shrine and under-cavern

Miniature messenger tokens

If I’m reading their kanji right, this little shrine and three others were relocated to the Hikawa-jinja site in 1921 during “neighborhood development.” The group is called “shiawase” (a pun on good fortune/blessing and four all together).

Grander but less endearing shrine

This larger building above also had Inari guardians, but is especially dedicated to preventing large fires. It’s the biggest and best maintained of the 4 consolidated shrines and was also the only one getting any foot traffic this morning (aside from yours truly and the gardener).

And as a parting pic, check out this stout little fellow that I met on the way out. He’s a head-honcho guardian of not just the little Inari shrines but the whole temple complex and seems to be taking his job very seriously!

Little help, little help here

 

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2 Responses to Meet our neighborhood fox shrine

  1. Calley says:

    Wow, when you said “neighborhood shrine” before I was envisioning a niche in the wall, or perhaps a small japanese-chapel-type structure by the side of the road. I can’t believe how much wild greenery is in evidence, basically in the urban core of the largest city in the world – that’s really impressive protection of green space! Lucky ducks to live so nearby 😉

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