Sometimes, a theme just presents itself. Our Japan trip filled camera rolls with foxes – statues, actual live foxes, and a little origami.
Fushimi Inari, near Kyoto, is best known for its orange-red torri gates – there are supposedly 10,000 of them – I didn’t count them, and it seems like no one else has definitively either. The photo that you always see is those gates, forming a red tunnel for the path snaking upward. If you don’t recognize the name Fushimi Inari, there’s still a good chance you’ve seen the picture.
I got to Fushimi Inari expecting the gates, and not expecting the foxes. Foxes are the messengers of Inari, the god of rice, and statues and images of them are throughout the shrine grounds. (I’ve seen this explanation of foxes and Inari more than one place, but one spot with more in that is here.) Stone foxes are peering out the shadows, smirking at tourists along the path, leaping on roof tops, holding granary keys, dressed in red garments… they are also depicted on blessing cards or charms and souvenirs at the stands. I couldn’t find an estimate for their total, but there are many, many of them. Fushimi Inari should probably be its own blog, and I’m tempted to post more photos here, but the point of this post exercise is supposed to be three photos only so… stay tuned?
Japan, at least to Western eyes, is a hotbed for places where you can encounter cute animals in odd settings and get close enough to really give your Instagram content a boost. There’s the rabbit island, the plethora of cat cafes, cafes with less common animals, the shrine at Nara where deer have taken up residence… and the fox village. We knew we wanted to see one of these things, and once in Tokyo, we chose Zao Fox Village because it would take us north, the opposite direction of our Kyoto excursion.
Fox Village is an attraction that is seemingly just there to be an attraction, and again, it really should be its own blog. Its a farm filled with… foxes! Visitors can walk around in the enclosure with the foxes (but not pet them), feed them in a designated area, and sometimes, hold a baby fox. The two little dudes above were some of the more confident foxes who came up to investigate us. (It was raining while we were there – their coats are wet, not scruffy.) Aside from the obvious appeal of foxes, everywhere, doing cute fox things, the other appeal of visiting the fox village for an international traveler is that despite its deliberate efforts to attract visitors, its fairly far off the typical path, and out of the city. Its located near Mt. Zao, comes with scenic rural views, and don’t expect to get around in English quite as easily as you can in Tokyo… and I need to write the blog this deserves at some point.
The final fox belongs technically to Thom, and the photo is his as well. Kitsune is an origami fox who accompanied us on the later half of our Japanese travels. In Shiroishi-Zao station, the station at which one gets off the train to go to the fox village, we had to ask for some help in the tourism office. (We weren’t sure if taxis had to be called, or if you just stand in the rain until one appears, or something of that sort.) As we turned to leave, the young guy who had helped us called us back and gave Thom an origami fox from a box of origami figures under the counter. “A gift for travelers” he said. We took photos of Kitsune (which is just the word for fox) at the various stops we had left on our trip. I think we intended to carry her on future trips, but so far we haven’t been able to move her from her safe spot by the record player.
By the way – Three Pictures is a new blogging exercise I’m trying to both try to help myself write at least some shorter, quicker posts and therefore blog more often, and also to get some more of my pictures seeing the light of day. If you ave any suggestions for Three Pictures themes, I’d welcome the challenge. Put them in the comments, tweet at me, ect.