There’s a map of Japan on the inside cover of ‘The Fox And The Jewel‘ (by Karen A. Smyers) showing all the major Inari worship centres of the country. There are 14 in total with two in Osaka so as I was going between Hiroshima and Nagoya on the way back to Tokyo, I decided to stop off there to visit them along with some other things.
After a very early morning start I was at Shin-Osaka station just before 9:30 am and within an hour I was then on the outskirts of the city in the foothills at Hyōtanyama Inari Shrine (8-1 Hyotanyamacho, Higashi-Osaka) once I’d managed to get my bearings.
Despite being a shrine guarded by foxes it seems that the star of this place is actually a Meiji-era horse (below) which I certainly wasn’t expecting and I’ve no idea why it’s there either!
Hyōtanyama Inari is a fairly compact shrine with the usual maze of routes going off in all directions once past the main sanctuary guarded by a couple of sizeable foxes. People come to this shrine to pray for prevention of traffic accidents and sickness or something along those lines. It hosts a big festival in February which includes free amazake – a traditional sweet, low/non-alcohol drink made from fermented rice – for the first 1200 people!
There were a steady stream of visitors when I was there as it was still the early days of the New Year when most Japanese visit such places for hatsumōde (symbolic first visit of the year). This shrine, which sits on a hill, contains an abundance of fox statues, torii gates, worship stones and so on.
90 minutes later I ventured on to the second shrine on my list which was Tamatsukuri Inari (2-3-8 Tamatsukuri, Chuo-ku). Bombing raids completely destroyed the shrine in 1945 with the present sanctuary of ferroconcrete was completed in 1954.
The ema (wood blocks for writing prayers and wishes on) were quite interesting in their appearance at this place with two foxes forming a heart with their entwined bodies.
The name Tamatsukuri, literally “jewel making,” is the name of the area around the shrine and refers to a guild of jewel makers who inhabited the area way back in time. At one of the subshrines to the right of the main sanctuary there’s a mother and cub statue (above). The formers neck was previously graced with a necklace of curved jewels, the main motif of the shrine, but that seems to have now been replaced by a kind of scarf. Maybe the necklace was stolen by some pilferer!
In the far corner of the shrine is a giant stone torii gate (below) that looks like it’s mostly buried into the soil but I’m not sure if that’s true or not. Whatever the story, what is on view is just a short one and it reminded me of the one that I saw on the arty island of Naoshima last August. It feels quite strange to be similar height to a torii gate and not be able to normally walk under it without having to limbo dance!
The sun was shining so brightly that it really did make it difficult to get some photos from the angles I wanted. To be honest I was a little disappointed with both these Osaka Inari centres but thankfully the one I went to the following day in Aichi prefecture more than compensated.
How to get there: For Hyōtanyama, take the Kintetsu Nara Line from Tsuruhashi station and Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine can be reached via a short walk from Morinomiya or Tamatsukuri stations.
Click on the links below to read previous ‘On The Fox Trail……’ posts…