A thousand orange gates

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April 5th 2016
Published: April 5th 2016
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The orange gates of Fushumi Inari are one of those classic sights like the Parthenon or the Eiffel Tower. For months now I've been walking past Michael's Camera Shop where they display such a photo and anticipating seeing them for myself. Well, it lives up to the photographs - though how those photographers got the shots without crowds of tourists in the way is a mystery.

Fushimi Inari Shrine is a bright orange Shinto shrine, with multiple sub-shrines around it. The drawcard is walking through some of the 1000 orange tori gates leading from the shrine up to the top of Mt Inari (or all of them if you have the energy). It's a very impressive sight, the orange stands out against the surrounding green forest and within one feels cocooned by the colour. I can imagine that for those who manage to get it alone it would be a powerful experience and even as one of hundreds of tourists it is very cool.

At the shrine we were privileged to meet a family who had brought their baby for Miyamairi, the first shrine visit which takes place when the baby is a month old. The grandmother, dressed in kimono with some kind of messages or prayers stuck into the back of her obi, held the baby who was wrapped in a beautiful silk shawl and had her forehead marked with an image of a tori gate. We watched the ceremony from a distance and were struck by the many similarities with our Jewish rituals from the priest reading a blessing from a scroll to 'Kiddush' afterwards.

Lest I get through a blog entry without mentioning cherry blossom, I can report that we have seen the first petals starting to drop. I caught a few on camera as they floated away down the river. The brevity of this beautiful season is part of what makes it so special. Japanese culture values transience and sees it as an inherent truth of life.

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