My first memory of Fushimi Inari Shrine is hiking up the mountain and getting so turned around that a wandering worker had to help me find my way back down it before sundown.
Since then, I’ve had a fondness for the winding torii gates, the little fox statues, and the views from the mountaintop. I guess you bond with a place when you get stuck for a few hours, huh? But over the years as it’s become more and more crowded, I’ve visited it less and less, reluctant to face the wave of humanity that hits it. And when I did visit it, it was purely to grab an omamori charm or to lead a visiting friend through. I didn’t visit it for myself anymore.
At least, not until I performed there.
Taiko groups get invitations to perform at all sorts of things throughout the year. If there’s a marathon in town, or a performance at City Hall, or even a local festival happening, you’re likely to spot at least a couple of taiko drummers nearby. It’s great because it allows groups the chance to have live performances in many different capacities, from informal park gatherings to participating in a formal ceremony at a shrine.
Motomiya Festival is held on a Sunday in July, always after the Day of the Ox. The night prior is called Yoimiya. This is a big ‘un, because worshipers from all over the country come to pray and celebrate the deity Oinari, or the god of fertility, agriculture, and of course, foxes. Both days you can expect to see lanterns all around the festival, including in among the torii gates, along with a traditional dance festival that starts in the early evening. And, if you go before that, you can see a taiko performance.
This year, we performed before the main gates on Yoimiya. While we’ve performed at other shrines in the past, this was a very powerful experience for me.
We were surrounded by visitors to the shrine, Japanese and foreign visitors alike, who crowded in excitedly to see the performances. There were cameras all over the place, but all of us agreed that the crowds didn’t even register for us as we played; our eyes were on the shrine, and the sun setting on it.
I’m not by any means a religious person, but I can appreciate the spirituality of a place or event, and this was one such event. The performance went well, and afterward, buoyed by leftover adrenaline, we went over to where the dance was taking place and joined in until it was over.
If you get a chance to check out Fushimi Inari Taisha at any point, I would recommend you come check it out during the Motomiya Festival. While it’s crowded, let’s be frank–it’ll be crowded whenever you come, unless it’s at 5am on a weekday. So you might as well come check out the food stands, the dancing, the drumming, and the beautiful lanterns in July.
What festivals or places mean a lot to you?