Uchino Inari Jinja 内野稲荷神社 - Just follow the red Toori 👹🍣🎎 Wonderful Japan



If there is one color that I associate with Japan, it has to be red. Vermilion, to be precise, because that's what this bright color is called correctly. There are a few theories as to why this intense shade of red dominates shrines and temples in particular.

On the one hand, red is said to protect against evil and demons, which for me would be a good reason why the toori, the distinctive gates at the entrance to the shrines, are often painted in this color. In addition, red is apparently a symbol of strength and energy as well and in addition, it marks the sun, which can be seen as a symbol on Japan's national flag. This is why many children often draw the sun in red or orange and not in yellow, as I would do myself.

During my travels and excursions here in the Land of the Rising Sun, over the years I have passed quite a few shrines, and it was often a red toori that caught my attention. Shrines can be found in all sorts of places and are usually dedicated to a kami, a deity, which for example can live in rocks or trees. In shrines, people also pray and ask for protection and help in everyday life and, in our region, especially for a successful rice harvest.

Some shrines are all too obvious, whereas others are sometimes almost hidden and can easily be overlooked. Well, that's where the red toori come into play again, which are supposed to give the unknowing passer-by an unmistakable hint.

When I travel or drive through our region, I often make some sudden stops when I see a shrine at the roadside that piques my interest. And just that was the case not so long ago, on a winter's morning when the sun had come out for the first time after a long wait and gave us a wonderfully blue sky.


I was on my way through Uchino, a small suburb of the city of Niigata in the prefecture of the same name, and the road I was traveling on I had taken many times before. But as I had a little more time that day, I finally wanted to take the opportunity to take a closer look at the shrine right by the roadside, whose toori I had passed so many times before.

We were not far from the Sea of Japan and in the immediate vicinity of the Shingawa, a man-made river arm that was created around two hundred years ago and which was mainly used to drain the surrounding water masses and swamps. The interesting thing about the Shingawa River is that it flows under a pre-existing river and that the waters of the two rivers do not mix. But there will be a post about that another time.


So then, after I had parked my car, I walked a few meters and was now across the street from the shrine entrance. The entrance was framed by two family homes and if it hadn't been for the bright red gate, it would have been easy to miss.


When passing by here on that road I had to stop at this spot several times, so of course I noticed the shrine on the other side. I had been wanting to stop here and have a look around for some time, and now the day had finally come. I was standing in front of the entrance, looking forward to exploring this local shrine.


Inari Jinja are shrines dedicated to the deity Inari, who often appears in the form of foxes. Inari Jinja can be found all over Japan, with small fox statues at their entrances, which act as guardians and protectors of the compound.


Inari is often seen as a female deity associated with -you guessed it- foxes but also rice, business success and general prosperity. According to some survey, there were 2970 Inari shrines across Japan in 2007, making them the most popular shrines in the country.


I've already visited a few Inari Jinja and today it was time for a short tour of the Uchino Inari-Jinja 内野稲荷神社, in front of whose toori I first lingered for a while to take a few photos.


Right behind the first entrance gate was a whole row of other red Toori, which stretched up onto a small hill, which I reached via a staircase.


This Toori series was like a small red tunnel and quickly managed to set the first but clear atmospheric accents, which created the sublime mood that can be felt at many shrines.


Once at the top, I was standing in front of a massive basin used for ritual hand cleansing. Normally there is a small ladle here with which you can let the water from the tub run over your hands, but I had missed it that day. At the end of winter, not everything was ready for the coming season.


I looked around at the top and discovered more red toori on the other side of the hill next to a small swing, which led straight back down and behind I could see some residential buildings.


I walked back down the stairs and turned around to enter the shrine again from the other side. The stairs here were much shorter and there were only four toori to go through.


As previously seen, the top gate was flanked by two more fox statues, which I don't want to withhold from you. The foxes are probably what give these shrines that little extra touch.


In the background we can see the gates we came through at the beginning and next to them, a little hidden, a few jungle gyms and a small slide. Playing seems to be highly encouraged up here, so I tried out one of the swings straight away.


The main building looked a little different to what I was used to at most shrines. It seemed a little flatter but wider, and on that day, under the bright blue sky, it looked very inviting. And there were two more foxes waiting for me, overlooking and watching over the whole place up here.


A glance upwards showed that you can often discover some playful details at shrines too. The two pigeons on the roof reminded me again of a well-known proverb. It sounds a little different in English - but who doesn't remember the bird in the bush?


After pausing for a moment to take in the atmosphere up here, I started to make my way back. Before heading back down, I stopped once more at the water basin, which had two kanji written on it.

奉納 Hounou - which means sacrifice or offering. I assume this is a votive offering to ask for the favor of supernatural powers. Even though I myself am not religious or believe in supernatural powers, I can still feel the special atmosphere that emanates from places like this one. Most shrines and temples are a little mystical and mysterious, and I like to indulge in this aura and try to draw a little strength and spiritual stimulation from it.


Finally, I stood in front of the Toori row again, through which I had come up here. I felt really good and enjoyed the wonderful setting I was presented with up here. The bright blue sky probably played a huge part in this, and I was once again in a really good mood.


Now I was heading back again and I was walking through the red tunnel once more. The bright red Toori around me gave me another energy boost and created a very special feeling, which had an extremely invigorating effect on me.


After that, I was already back on the main road from which I had come. I still had a small work-related program that day, but after this tune-up I was now ready for everything that might be waiting for me. Fortunately, I always manage to take a few breaks and detours where I can discover and experience the world around me a little more in detail.

Most people will probably just drive past a shrine like this without ever bothering to have a look, but that's exactly why I try to stop at such places and enjoy a stroll around. Like here at Uchino Inari Jinja, at this small but charming shrine, which gave me exactly the inspiration I needed that day. And even now, as I am writing these words, I still feel a little bit of the atmosphere of this place. My mood immediately improves a little more so I take another look at my photos as I walk the short circuit through the red Toori up to the shrine in my mind.

Let's see where I'll stop next time and have a look around. There is certainly still a lot to discover and I will be happy to tell you about it again. So please check back here soon for new pictures and impressions from the Land of the Rising Sun. There is still a lot to show...



[//]:# (!pinmapple 37.85507 lat 138.93924 long Uchino Inari Jinja 内野稲荷神社 - Just follow the red Toori 👹🍣🎎 Wonderful Japan d3scr)


Every place in Japan is very beautiful, especially the red gate which is the hallmark of Japan


I am feeling the same about the gate, which really stand out everywhere. Japan is my recommendation for every travel enthusiast!


It's so peaceful. It's fun that they have rows of torii in the neighborhood. It seems like a neighborhood jinja and what I've seen usually in neighborhood jinjas, they don't have lots of these red gates, maybe one or a few.


That is right. Usually there is only one Toori, but here right in the middle of the town there was this row of gates leading up this small hill. Quite a surprise and that was why I could not resist checking out that place!