Past thousands of hypnotic torii (Shinto shrine gates) at Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine in southeast Kyoto, a four-kilometer mountain path leads to a wooded summit overlooking small shrines below and the Gion entertainment and geisha district beyond. The head shrine of some 40,000 Inari shrines scattered throughout Japan was dedicated to the gods of rice and sake in the 8th century.
More recently, Inari also is seen by the Japanese as the patron of business, traditionally worshipped by merchants and manufacturers. Each neon orange torii gate at Fushimi Inari Taisha is donated by a Japanese business.
Amidst the stunning shrine complex, dozens of stone foxes guard the wooded slopes of Inari-yama. Considered the messenger of Inari, the fox is seen by the Japanese as a sacred, mysterious creature, often depicted holding the key to the rice granary.