Inari Fox Statues – Japan Shinto Shrine

Inari is the name of the Japanese Shinto (native religion of Japan) god who watches over and protects the rice harvest. As rice has long been the staple food of the Japanese, this god is obviously very important, and shrines to Inari are reported to number more than 20,000 in Japan. Inari’s messenger is the magical, shape-shifting fox or kitsune as it is called in Japanese. Images of foxes are commonly seen flanking Inari in paintings of this god, as well as guarding the entrance to Inari shrines. Inari messenger foxes are said to possess the ability to hear and see all human activities as well as to transform into human form (usually a bewitching woman). Inari fox messengers are said to grow in power as they age and will only gain a tail (a symbol of power) after reaching the ripe old age of 100. Fox messengers are most powerful after they have lived for 1000 years at which point they may have a total of nine tails, grey or white fur and will have attained the power of infinite vision. Fox lore is common in Asia, though it is normally thought to have originated in India. Some Asian cultures view the fox as a strictly malevolent creature, though it Japan it is just as often portrayed as a powerful, yet kind creature with a genuine interest in the welfare of humans.

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