Inari Mountain Mystery: A Bad-Mannered Tourist Was Tricked by a White Fox

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White fox sculpture in Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine

This is a true story about a bad-mannered tourist visiting the Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, Japan who defiled the sacred mountain and was tricked by a white fox, a messenger of Inari deity, and kept getting lost in the mountains of Mount Inari.

Inari Mountain Mystery

Bad-mannered Tourists Were Often Missing on Mt. Inari

Since ancient times in Japan, it has been believed that deities descended from the three peaks of Mount Inari and that the entire mountain is considered to be a sacred area. In other words, Mt. Inari itself is the deity.

In recent years, the tour of Mt. Inari by tourists from outside Japan has become popular.

Visitors to Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

However, since Mt. Inari is a sacred place inhabited by living gods from ancient Japan, if a person with bad manners throws trash, makes a mess, or commits other disrespectful acts, he or she may suffer a terrible fate.

According to Tamae Sunazawa (1922-2009), the former head of the Santan branch of the Fushimi Inari Taisha Koumu Honcho (now the affiliated Koumu Honcho) and an exceptional Japanese shaman, there was in fact a time when a person who committed an act of disrespect on Mt. Inari got lost on the mountain and ended up in a completely different place.

Furthermore, it is said that people have been tricked by the fox*1 on Mt. Inari for a long time, and many people have gone missing.

At Inari shrines, white foxes are said to be messengers of the deities. This white fox is not a fox as a beast, but a spiritual fox, whose appearance is often witnessed by those who are sensitive to spirits.

Mysterious Experience of a Man Tricked by a White Fox and Lost in Mt. Inari

According to an essay by a Japanese Kabuki*2 actor, Kataoka Nizaemon XI*3, “A true story like a lie,” which appeared in the 1968 issue 4 of “Ake,” a magazine published by the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine office, a man actually had such a mysterious experience on Mt. Inari.

Kabuki is a classical form of Japanese theatre, mixing dramatic performance with traditional dance.

Onoe Kikugorō VI as Umeō-maru in Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami.

Kataoka Nizaemon XI (1858-1934). Japanese Kabuki actor. He became the head of the Tokyo Kabuki-za Theater, and together with Nakamura Utaemon V and Ichimura Uzaemon XV, was known as “San’emon,” or “Three Emons,” and the driving force behind the Tokyo Kabuki theater.

Kataoka Nizaemon XI

According to Nizaemon, in March 1922, he stayed in Kyoto for a performance at the Minami-za Theater in Kyoto with his troupe, which included Kabuki kyogen author Takeshiba Kanisuke*4 and Kabuki actor Nakamura Utaemon V*5.


Note *4:
Takeshiba Kanisuke (1904-1989) became a kyogen author exclusively for the Tokyo Kabuki-za in 1925 and was also active behind the scenes as a clapper player.

Nakamura Utaemon V (1866-1940). Japanese Kabuki actor. Nakamura was popular as a beautiful oyama (the male actor who plays the role of a woman in kabuki), and was called “the best oyama of the East and West” in the Japanese kabuki world at the time. Nakamura continued to perform on stage even though lead poisoning from the white powder he used to make his skin look fair as an oyama actor left him physically handicapped with lead-poisonous myelitis.

Nakamura Utaemon V

One morning, Kanisuke woke up early in the morning and decided to go to Fushimi Inari to pray. The play at the Minami-za was to open at 3:00 p.m., so he set out with the intention of returning to the Minami-za before then.

The main gate

After praying at the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, Kanisuke passed through the Senbon-torii gate and came to the Okuno-in (inner place of worship).

Torii path with a hanging lantern at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine Senbontorii, Kyoto, Japan.

Kanisuke could have turned back at this point, but he still had some time left, so he continued on past Kumatakasha (a small shrine) to Mitsutsuji (a three-way intersection).

Kumataka Shrine and Kodamagaike (Shin-ike) Pond

Again, Kanisuke should have turned left at Mitsujisuji and gone back, but he continued onward.

However, on the way, he had a hard time urinating.

Kanisuke decided to do his business, but to his dismay, there were no public restrooms in the mountain at that time. Also, since this was his first visit to Fushimi Inari, it did not occur to him to borrow the restroom at a teahouse. In the end, Kanisuke ended up doing his business at the base of a torii gate.

The above image is for illustration purposes only.

After doing his business, Kanisuke felt refreshed and began to walk up the approach again, but the mountain path was the same one after another, with no shrine or teahouse.

That’s strange. Maybe I took a wrong turn.

Kanisuke began to feel uneasy. Then he saw a person in white sweeping the area under a tree with what looked like a rake. Kanisuke approached the person in white and asked for directions, and the person told him the way to go.

The above image is for illustration purposes only.

Kanisuke thanked the person and walked in the direction the person had told him.

The above image is for illustration purposes only.

But somehow, no matter how far he walked, Kanisuke could not see any mounds or shrines.

Strange, strange!

Wondering as he walked, Kanisuke soon lost track of where he was. Still, as he walked on, the sun began to set.

The above image is for illustration purposes only.

Oh! I don’t think I can get back in time for the performance!

Kanisuke began to feel impatient, and he sat down on the spot due to exhaustion.

The above image is for illustration purposes only.

After a while, Kanisuke regained his composure and looked ahead, and saw a house.

The above image is for illustration purposes only.

Let’s go to that house anyway!

With this thought in mind, Kanisuke started walking again, but his legs were aching and he could not walk as fast as he wanted to. Still limping, Kanisuke managed to get close to the house, which turned out to be a farmer’s house in Yamashina, about 5 miles away from Fushimi Inari. To his surprise, Kanisuke kept walking all day long in the mountains in the wrong direction!

If he had not been able to reach the house, Kanisuke might have also been lost in the mountains and never returned.

Nizaemon explains that this Kanisuke’s mysterious experience must have been a punishment from the deities because he urinated standing up on Mount Inari, where the deities reside. Kanisuke himself recalls that the person in white must have been an incarnation of a white fox, a messenger of the deity of Inari.

The above image is for illustration purposes only.

Fortunately, Kanisuke was able to return from the mountain, but it is said that many people have been tricked by the fox and gone missing on Mt. Inari for a long time.

So, when you visit Mt. Inari, please behave properly and do not pollute the mountain by leaving trash or litter on the mountain.

This is a message to you from the deities of Fushimi Inari*6

At first, I had intended to write about Fushimi Inari on a completely different topic.
However, when I tried to scan the relevant pages of the book as reference material for writing the article, for some reason I had trouble importing any data at all.
When I pressed the button on the scanner, the scanner made a sound and worked, but the data it was supposed to capture was not output to my PC. This was strange because I had never had this kind of trouble before. Strangely enough, the pages of other books, which had nothing to do with Fushimi Inari, were scanned in just fine.
I thought I was being scolded by the deities of Fushimi Inari not to write that article. What about other articles?
So I gave up scanning that page, flipped through the pages of the Fushimi Inari book without looking at any pages, and tried scanning again on a page that opened at random.
To my surprise, I was able to capture the page in the scanner without any difficulty. The page was the very one that contained the topic described above!
Perhaps, I thought, the deities of Inari wanted to convey a message to us, “Don’t pollute Mount Inari,” because of the increasing number of bad-mannered tourists in recent years. In this way, the deities of Inari are still actively working in our world with their mysterious power to influence even modern electronic devices such as scanners and computers.
This is a true story of my own experience.

Published on June 3, 2023
Written by OTAKUPAPA


  1. Kataoka Nizaemon XI, “Uso no Youna Hontou no Hanashi” (A true story like a lie), 1968 issue 4 of “Ake,” a magazine published by the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine office

2. Kengo Naito, November 28, 2017, “Oinarisan to Reigentan” (Inari and Tales of Spiritual Experiences), Yousensha, Inc.

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A dad blogger who loves manga, anime, games. In this blog, I will introduce amazing Japanese spirituality and philosophy.


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