Toyokawa Inari Shrine is one of the crown jewels of the country’s central Chubu region. Located between the major cities of Nagoya and Shizuoka City, it’s one of Japan’s three big inari shrines. This stunning complex in Aichi Prefecture is comprised of nearly 100 buildings and is covered in beautiful stone fox statues.
Founded in 1441, Toyokawa Inari Shrine is unique because it is both a Shinto and Buddhist shrine. It’s dedicated to both the Shinto fox god(dess) Inari Okami and the Buddhist protective deity Dakini Shinten. A priest by the name of Kangan Giin first beheld Dakini Shinten in a vision, riding atop a white fox while carrying rice and a “wish-fulfilling jewel,” according to the shrine’s history. The resulting carving, fashioned by Kangan himself in the 13th century, is housed today in the shrine’s main hall.
Shrine of a thousand foxes
After marveling at the carved front gate and main hall, make your way down the path to the right to explore the rest of the grounds. The Garden of Myogonji features a stunning koi pond and is also a favorite sunbathing spot for turtles and cats.
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At the end of the path lies a sight as enchanting as it is enigmatic. Approximately 800 stone foxes, staring silently amidst a lush green forest. Reikozuka, known as the Shrine of a Thousand Foxes, was originally a place to worship the messenger of Inari. However, throughout the years, those who had their wishes fulfilled dedicated fox statues to the shrine.
Toyokawa’s charm extends beyond the shrine and into the shotengai, or shopping district, that lies beyond its gates. Shops peddling souvenirs and handmade goods line the retro main street. Amongst all the things on offer, the one thing not to miss is inarizushi—the sweet tofu sushi is a favorite treat of the fox deities. Toyokawa is considered one of the birthplaces of this traditional dish, though its true origin is a bit hazy. No worries, your tastebuds won’t know the difference.