Attributes: Foxes, fertility, rice, tea, sake, prosperity, and success
Symbols: Red and white fox, sickle, rice and the colour, red
Inari or Oinari is one of the main deities from Shinntoísm in Japan. She has got more than 30 thousand altars and temples dedicated to her (excluding the homemade ones and those found on the roads).
The red color is very present in the cult of it and it appears a lot on foxes, her most common symbol, and on the Torii present in places of devotion.
Fox statues are usually found in pairs: a male and a female. This happens because Inari is represented as a young food goddess, as an elderly man carrying sacks of rice, or even as an androgynous bodhisattva for devotees of Buddhism. Her appearance depends greatly on one’s beliefs and traditions, making Inari a very personal deity.
These statues usually have some item in their mouths or under a foreleg, and it may most commonly be a coin or a jewel and a key, but it may also be a branch of rice, a parchment, or a fox cub.
Her main shrine is in Kyoto, in Fushimi. The place is visited by tourists and devotees, being one of the most characteristic places of Japan.
|Fushimi Inari Taisha – Inari’s Shrine in Kyoto|
Being both the Goddess or the God of rice, Inari is also associated with general prosperity, and in feudal Japan, she was the patroness of swordsmen and merchants.
Her strongest aspect is the deity of agriculture, protecting the rice fields and blessing the farmers with a fertile crop every year.
There is a myth which tells that Inari descends from her mountain every year during the spring, blessing the rice plantations. During this period, she takes the form of a young woman and sleeps with men. One of these men realized that he was sleeping with the Goddess when he saw a red and hairy tail through the sheets, but he did not say anything. Inari rewarded his discretion by doubling that year’s crop.
One Goddess, many faces
Sometimes she can also be seen as a set of other deities that vary according to the period Japan was in. Initially, there were 3 deities (Inari sanza), but since the Kamakura period, this number has increased to 5 (Inari goza).
According to the records in her shrine, Izanagi, Izanami, Ninigi and Wakumusubi Were already related to Inari at a certain time, but today the five deities related to her are currently Ukanomitama, Sarutahiko, Omiyanome, Tanaka and Shi.
In Takekoma Inari, the second oldest temple dedicated to Inari, the three deities related to it are Ukanomitama, Ukemochi e Wakumusubi.
Sometimes her feminine appearance is also identified as Dakiniten, A Buddhist deity who is the Japanese correspondent to the Indian Dekini. In this way, as we discussed earlier, she is seen as androgynous and depicted mounted on a flying white fox.
There are those who say that all deities who are related to food may be related to Inari in some way.
Inari in pop culture
In the game Persona 3 Portable, released for Playstation Portable (PSP) in 2009 there are references to several deities of various religions and to the Tarot. The protagonist of the game summons the personas (manifestations of his personality) through the cards with different arcana.
Among these references, there is a shrine dedicated to Inari that duplicates some card chosen by the player. This refers to the fertility and prosperity aspects of this deity.
The game Persona 5 (released in 2016 for Playstation 3 and 4) also continues with the pagan theme, and one of the protagonists (Yusuke) has a dress that clearly refers to Inari.
Another protagonist, Futaba, calls him Oinari instead of using his name.
In the game Splatoon, released for Wii U in 2015, there is a white fox statue with red accents on the game’s main map.