The Hidden Shrine of Fushimi Inari

July 21, 2015

by Ayaka Murai & Daichi Hatakeyama

Most visitors to Kyoto want to visit one of its most famous spots, Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine. Fushimi Shrine is known as the headquarters of all the Inari shrines nationwide. However, few people now about Kanriki Shrine, which is located deep within the grounds of Fushimi Shrine. It is slightly difficult to find for a person going there for the first time.

Kanriki Shrine

Kanriki Shrine

Kanriki Shrine was built in 1952. It is said that kanriki is an energy that “controls” the flow of time of the time and helps keep peace and harmony. There are a lot of people who seek the miraculous blessings of the god enshrined in Kanriki, Kanriki Ogamisama, for the well being of their family, the health of their body, and success in their business. They also pray success at school, the realization of their earnest wishes and the warding off of evil. We can pray at the shrine. A Shinto priest then takes a report of our wishes and prays to Kanriki Ogamisama in the worship hall on our behalf. Priests also pay visits to other locations for family festivals, monthly festivals and some grand festivals. They also visit cemeteries on occasion.

Attain Your Goal with a Daruma Doll

There are various sizes of “Daruma” dolls at Kanriki Shrine. Kanriki Shrine is very famous for its Daruma figures. Daruma was a monk most famous for the transmission of Buddhism from India to China and then later to Japan. He founded the Zen, or Chan (Chinese), sect of Buddhism in China after he mediated for 12 years in a cave. He meditated so long that it is said his legs fell off. That is why the Daruma dolls in Japan have no legs and are round on the bottom.

People get Daurma dolls when they want to fulfil a specific goall. At first, they write the characters for kanriki—間力— with a writing brush in the center of the Daruma’s body. A Daruma has no pupils in his eyes— at first. To make a wish you first paint a pupil in one of the Daruma’s eyes while praying. After fulfilling your wish, you paint a pupil into the other eye, completing the face of the Daruma. This unique Daruma called Kanriki Daruma. So, there are many people who want to get one.

Appealing to the God of Ball Games

Recently a “god of a ball games” was enshrined at the shrine. The god grants profit in every kind of ball game available to us. Therefore many venerate it and even professional baseball players come to pray to this god. People can also receive power by touching a precious stone there.

Kanriki Shrine has a long history, and many believers and worshipers are supporting it. If there is a chance you will visit Fushimi Inari when you come to Kyoto, you can also visit Kanriki Shrine. Pray and get power from Kanriki Ogamisama.


There are two ways to get there by train. One is that you get off at Inari Station of the JR-Nara Line, and walk for about 6 minutes. The second is to get off at Fushimi Inari Station of the Keihan Line, and walk for about 10 minutes. You can see a pond named Osanba-ike when you walk a while. The shrine is located on the north side of the pond. But, the shrine has a car park (5 cars), so it is also possible to go by car.


Sei Shounagon and The Pillow Book

by Wataru Meguro

Sei Shounagon is one of the Japanese poets who lived in the Heian period, which started in 794 A.D. and lasted until 1185 or 1192 A.D. She is known as the author of The Pillow Book, which is regarded as one of the most valuable historical sources on life in the Heian period as well as being a masterpiece of literature in Japan. Compared to the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Sikibu, The Pillow Book has a reputation for its jestful descriptions of the life of nobility during that period.

Shounagon was born the daughter of the poet, Kiyohara no Motonosuke, and given an education in literature. She married when she was 16, but divorced shortly after. At age of 28, she started to serve in the palace, where her literary talent was recognized by Fujiwara no Teishi, the empress of the time. There she worked both as a secretary and private tutor of Fujiwara no Teishi. In addition to that, she kept a journal about her observations palace life and its seasonal cultural practices. The collection of these journals eventually came to be called The Pillow Book at a later date in time.

The Pillow Book consists of about 200 short chapters. It has achieved a high reputation for its lively description and expressive words. The quotes from the book can be seen in almost all of the literature textbooks in Japanese high schools. Also, since it contains detailed descriptions of the life of Heian nobility, The Pillow Book is considered to be one of the most important historical records of that era. The most famous quote from the book is below.  

くたなびきたる –第一段

which means,

I think the most beautiful hour in the spring is early morning.
The sun is yet behind the peaks. Outside is getting light a little bit. And the thin cloud, which appears slightly purple, is hanging in the sky. – Episode 1

Summer Sunrise Over Jizoudake

Summer Sunrise Over Jizoudake

Sei Sounagon is famous for such writings that mention the beauty of nature and the four seasons, but the episodes about her daily life comprise a large portion of the book.

There are several things that I cannot stand to hear. For example, it’s the sound ofkoto, which is played without proper tuning, by somebody who is not good, but does not know that herself. Or it’s the voice of the people who are chatting loudly in the other rooms while we are hosting our guests. – Episode 92

Among these episodes, some of them tell us about the atmosphere of ancient Kyoto. For example, there is a chapter describing the time when Sei Shounagon visited Fushimi Inari shrine, which is located in the south east part of Kyoto city. She says,

I thought I should visit Fushimi-Inari and actually went to the shrine. But I was exhausted in the middle of the approach. When I was taking a rest and regretting my foolhardy attempt, an older lady in casual dress went passed me. That was impressing. -Episode 152

Sei Shonagon

Sei Shonagon

It seems like making a circuit around the Fushimi Inari shrine was a hard job for Heian people. It is the same for many of us living in modern times. Considering the fact Sei Shounagon had to walk all the way from the palace, which existed near what is now Marutamachi Station, there is no wonder she ran out of energy on her way. Through her words, we can see what the Heian people were thinking. Some people might find it similar with what they are thinking now. Sei Shonagon shows us a different world through her book, but also tells us that the way we feel is not too different from what people felt a thousand years ago.