Think of loads of beautiful red torii gates winding their way through a beautiful natural environment and Fushimi Inari in Kyoto is no doubt what comes to mind for almost everyone. However, this particular shrine is a rival contender when it comes to truly beautiful and awe-inspiring landscape. The combination of lush greenery, bright red torii gates and turquoise-blue ocean colours make this a mesmerising place for tourists. It may not be one of the major Inari shrines in Japan but this was the one that I wanted to visit more than any other. The problem though is it’s location!
Lying on the Sea of Japan coast up in Nagato (Yamaguchi-ken) it is very much off the average tourist’s radar. Accessibility is not easy without a car as the nearest station (Nagato-Furuichi) is over 90 minutes on foot on a line where trains really don’t run that often. A return taxi will set you back around 4000 yen and it is about 15-20 minutes drive one way.
Once we were done at Akiyoshido Cave we drove on up to the coast and had to wait a while for a space to open up in the car park over the road from the shrine. After a cloudy morning, the heat suddenly went up a few notches and it really was blazing hot sunshine for the duration of our stay in the area.
The advised route is to start off at the cliffs overlooking the Sea of Japan and then to work your way up through 123 torii gates to the shrine at the top but I reckon the opposite way is a more preferable way to do it. Well it probably is for foreigners anyway (not that I saw any others when I was there!) as the reward of the ocean is probably more appealing than what is at the peak. All depends what you want to leave till last really!
The gates stretch for over 100 metres but they are relatively new as they were installed between 1987 and 1997 by just one man who is in charge of the shrine.
The shrine itself has a longer history dating back to 1955 which is still relatively young by shrine and temple standards! This is where the fox comes into the story for a white fox supposedly visited a local fisherman in his sleep and the man told it to acknowledge his success in local affairs. Taikodani Inari Shrine in Tsuwano in neighbouring Shimane Prefecture shares some kind of unique kanji-based affinity with Motonosumi and thus helped them out by enshrining the same deity……or something like that! Not sure if I really understand it all!!
The aforementioned white fox is symbolised around the shrine, especially at the main shrine where there are a couple of smiling stone statues by the path.
The most spectacular views really are from the top including the classic shot used on promotional pamphlets for Yamaguchi prefecture.
Praying to the deity at this shrine can make your wishes come true but you have to work for it! You need to be able to aim high (about five metres) as the offertory box for prayers is in an unusual spot; a place you won’t see anywhere else in Japan. I managed to get it in on my third or fourth throw….unlike the guy in the picture (below) who tried and failed many times!
The heat had really hit my wife and her parents and they had long been back in the car by the time I got some final pictures at the giant red torii gate which has a couple of white foxes guarding it. These are often stone statues but at Motonosumi they are slightly kitsch anime-style wooden cut-outs! A welcome sight for Tokyo Fox though!
Satisfied with what I had seen, we finally left to get some ramen for lunch further along the coast. There was a counter at the far end of the place allowing for some fine views of the ocean whilst you eat. The set I ordered seemed rather odd as it bizarrely included a burger with it! However, this was no ordinary burger as the meat was chashu; the Japanese braised pork often used in ramen dishes. It was way better than I thought it would be.
Click on the links below to read previous ‘On The Fox Trail……’ posts…
Zao Fox Village (Miyagi) Fushimi-Inari Shrine (Kyoto) Oji (Tokyo) Saijo-Inari Shrine (Okayama) Toyokawa Inari Tokyo Betsuin (Tokyo) Osaka Toyokawa Inari (Aichi) Kasama Inari Shrine (Ibaraki) Haneda (Tokyo)