Takahashi Inari Shrine In Kumamoto

Takahashi Inari Shrine (高橋稲荷神社), located in Kumamoto city, is considered (or self-proclaimed) to be one of the five main Inari shrines in Japan. The other include Kyoto Fushimi Inari-taisha (京都伏見稲荷大社), Toyokawa Inari (豊川稲荷 - it belongs to Myogenji Temple/妙嚴寺) in Aichi Prefecture, Saijo Inari (最上稲荷 - again it belongs to Nichiren sect temple, Myo-kyo ji/妙教寺) in Okayama Prefecture and Yuutoku Inari shrine (祐徳稲荷神社) in Saga Prefecture. 
Jinmon Gate/神門
The history of Takahashi Inari shrine dated back to 1496 when the first owner of Kumamoto castle, Chikagazu Kanokogi (鹿子木 親員), built the Jodai castle (上代城at the Mt. Inari summit. The shrine was founded for safe-guarding the castle by transferring the Inari deity spirit from Kyoto Fushimi Inari-taisha. The original shrine was burnt into ashes in 1541 when Jodai castle was destroyed in the war...

Haiden Hall
When Ieyasu Tokugawa founded Tokugawa shogunateHosokawa clan (細川氏) was appointed to be the owner of Kumamoto castle. In 1661, the priest in Kaizoji temple (海蔵寺) where spirits of Hosokawa clan's ancestors were taken care of, was inspired in his dream to re-build Takahashi Inari shrine shrine at the current place.

Since then, Hosokawa clan worshipped and supported the shrine.

The enshrined deity is Ukanomitama (ウカノミタマ). Inari shrines are said to exist around 3,000 in Japan and an additional 30,000 Inari shrines exist as as auxiliary shrine (sessha/摂社). 

Although Ukanomitama is enshrined in such a great number of shrines, we  know very little about this shinto deity. The name of Ukanomitama, indeed, appear in the myths but no depictions as to who she is (Ukanomitama is thought to be a female deity) and what she's done can be found in mythologies- Kojiki and Nihon shoki.

Big torii gate
"Uka (ウカ/倉稲)" in Ukanomitama is thought to mean "cereals or foods" and Inari (稲荷) in Inari shrine is considered to mean "ripening rice". People come to visit the shrine hoping for bumper crops (五穀豊穣) and success in business (商売繁盛). Alternatively, another Kanji,鋳成 (いなり), is applied to "Inari", meaning "casting iron". Several hypothesis have been raised to explain Inari shrine based on the production of iron. I'd love to exhibit several facts about it but I'd refrain from it here in this entry...

Note the "五穀豊穣" flag
Ukanomitama is a daughter of Susanowo (スサノオ) and Kamu-ooichihime (カムオオイチヒメ). Kamu-ooichihime, a daughter of Ohyamatsumi (オオヤマヅミ), is alternatively called Ohtoshi-mioya kami (大歳御祖神). Brother of Ukanomitama is Ohtoshi/Toshigami (トシカミ) - a deity (kami) of the year (toshi/), who appears in New Year's day. The traditional ritual ceremonies in New Year's day in Japan are originally to welcome the "Year of deity, Toshikami", BTW.

Countless number of red torii gates
Inari shrine is easily recognizable by it's characteristic of multiple red torii gates and foxes. 

Gold foxes in Haiden Hall

The highest ranking, Sho-ichii (正一位), is bestowed to the Inari shrine. 

正一位- the ultimate ranking bestowed. Photo is taken elsewhere... 
Due to Kumamoto earthquakes in 2016, several places (such as stone lanterns) are still damaged.

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