Rather than post about Day 2 of our Summer Road, I’ll instead discuss the only place we visited that day. This is one of my most off-the-beaten-path posts so far. If you travel to Kyushu by car, I recommend a visit to Yutoku Inari Shrine (祐徳稲荷神社).
(The website can be found here.)
Cost of Admission: FREE Hours of Operation: ALWAYS OPEN How To Get There: Several ways and none are convenient. Click HERE.
After seven long hours of driving to reach Kyushu, we were tired of being in a car. I looked up stuff to do around Nagasaki, and Yutoku Inari Shrine popped up as one of the top ten. The pictures alone made me want to visit.
When we realized it never closes, we headed here and beat the sunset. Best of all, almost no one was here. I had the shrine all to myself.
It is a fox shrine like Fushimi Inari, and one of the top three shrined dedicated to the deity Inari Okami. This is the main shrine with five subordinate shrines scattered around various prefectures in Kyushu. Built centuries ago, it traffics millions of visitors every year.
Here is gorgeous video I found about the shrine:
Although it doesn’t take as long to view as Fushimi Inari, it is a dynamic shrine. At the entrance is a statue of a fox with a key in its mouth.
That is supposed to be a key to the rice granary. According to legend if you manage to steal that key you can extract favors from the fox spirits, but be warned they will make you pay for your theft one way or another. In all mythology it’s never good to mess with foxes.
Another myth in Japan is that fox spirits have their wedding ceremonies when it rains while the sun is out. Terrible things will befall any human who is caught trying to watch one of their weddings.
In fact, the famous director Akira Kurosawa made a short film about a boy who secretly observes a fox wedding.
This is not the full video. In the full video the boy is warned by an old woman at the house he works for that he mustn’t go into the forest right now since it’s raining and the sun is out. The fox spirits will no doubt have a wedding, she says, and humans must not watch.
The boy doesn’t listen and stumbles upon the foxes (or kitsune) in a wedding procession. The fox spirits catch him in the act and he bolts in terror. When he arrives home, the old woman from before won’t let him inside. She says the fox spirits came by and were outraged that he spied on their wedding. They left him a knife. After she gives the boy the foxes’ knife, she tells him he has two options to appease the foxes: use the knife to kill himself or wander the world alone and hope one day he can atone. The movie ends with him wandering off to an unknown fate as he holds the knife close to his chest.
As the stories say, never anger fox spirits.
I don’t think we angered any fox spirits during our quick visit.
The main shrine
There are several staircases that lead up the side of the mountain and take you to the vermillion torii gates.
The gates lead up the mountainside
On and on they go
The mosquitos bit the heck out of me. When I took this picture I looked down to see five of them on my legs. I’d wear bug spray if you visit in the summer. This shrine takes about 40-50 minutes to fully explore, depending on good you are with stairs.
The most dynamic shot is, of course, the front gates.
Make your own postcard
If you are in Saga Prefecture on Kyushu Island in the far south of Japan, give this place a look. Just be sure not to anger the fox spirits.