Other than a few major Inari Shrines in Kyushu and a possible return to Zao Fox Village when it’s snowy, the end is nigh for this ‘On The Fox Trail…’ series. Or so I thought!
Whilst searching for things to do in Matsue I came across this shrine which is located just beyond the castle but within the moat and it’s grounds. Beforehand I knew this shrine possessed a load of foxes but I just assumed it was only the small white ceramic figurine foxes that can be purchased as a token of good luck. However, it turned out to be a lot more than that and proved to be an unexpected highlight of my time in Shimane prefecture.
The name of this shrine is Jozan Inari-Jinja (477 Tonomachi, Matsue, Shimane-ken) and sadly it’s often overlooked by all those visitors who seek out the castle and nothing more.
The usual torii gates guide you down the path towards some steep steps and at the top of them are two guardian foxes as is common at many shrines throughout the country.
The main hall lying just behind the gate is fairly nondescript but wander round the back of that and there is a reward!
Hundreds of stone foxes, some covered in moss, line the perimeter going round past one or two tiny shrines to another shrine at the rear of the place which is packed full of the aforementioned white ceramic figurine foxes.
Many shrines host annual festivals but they’re far less often at Jozan Inari-Jinja Shrine. It’s Shikinen Shinkousai Festival occurs only once every ten years and the next one just happens to be this year (2019). It’s held over three separate days; Saturday 18th May, Wednesday 22nd May and Sunday 26th May. It involves more than 100 decorated boats and is supposed to be one of the three greatest boat festivals in all of Japan. Why?
Way back in the 17th century, the weather forecast for Shimane prefecture was very volatile so fearing that such conditions would result in a poor harvest, the local lord prayed for assistance and his prayers were answered. It subsequently became a tradition to repeat this ceremony every decade. More details about the festival can be seen on the official site here.
Bonus: My one and only present for Christmas last month came from my parents. It was three pairs of socks and one of them were these fox ones!
A few months ago, these udon noodle flavour tortilla chips (below) hit the market to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their popular Akai Kitsune instant cup noodles. For those who don’t know, kitsune has two meanings in Japanese. One is fox and the other is the name for udon noodles in hot dashi soup topped with aburaage (the favourite food of foxes and fox spirits) that’s been cooked in a sweet and salty sauce. They were ok but nothing too close to the taste of the sweet fried tofu which dons the top of the noodle bowl.
On Christmas Eve I cycled to Shōzoku Inari Jinja (2-30-14 Oji, Kita-ku) which is where the Oji Fox Pageant takes place on New Years Eve. I wasn’t really there there to visit the shrine (below) though.
Just across from the shrine is a shop with a long history that I’ve visited a few times. It’s called Oji Yamawa and this time I finally met the owner for a chat about the shop, the shrine, foxes and the festival itself whilst drinking some green tea. He was such a nice, kind guy who my only previous communication with had been on social media.
The shop was established way back in 1888 and moved to its current location (2-32-2 Oji, Kita-ku) in February 2004. In addition to traditional pottery, glassware and lacquerware it sells many fox-related goods with the main one being the many, many varieties of fox masks ranging in price from reasonable to very expensive!
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) Motonosumi Inari Shrine (Yamaguchi) The Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre The Oji Fox Parade (Tokyo) Keihin Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kanagawa) Tokyo’s Most Hidden Shrine Tokyo Hedgehog Cafe! Takekoma-Jinja Shrine (Miyagi) Takayama Inari-Jinja Shrine (Aomori)