Osaka, the Merchant's Capital of Early Modern Japan

By James L. McClain; Wakita Osamu | Go to book overview

C H A P T E R E I G H T
Inari Worship
in Early Modern Osaka

Nakagawa Sugane

TRANSLATED BY ANDREA C. DAMON

During the early modem period, Inari Daimyōjin was one of the most widely worshipped deities in Japan.Certainly, his pedigree glowed with distinction. The earliest Japanese written works, the Kojiki and Nihon shoki, identify Inari as a manifestation of Uka no Mitama no Kami, Toyouke Okami, Ukemochi no Kami, and several other exalted Shinto gods whose names contain the ideographs uka, uke, ke, and ge, all of which refer in some fashion to the production of grains.The exact etymology of Inari's own name is not certain, but one theory holds that it derives from the phrase ine nari, the ripening of rice.In the popular mind, Inari's name and his close association with a particular group of agricultural gods singled him out as the primary deity of rice and cereals, the protector of the nation's harvests.

Inari's importance to the rhythm of the seasons and the cycle of life earned him enshrinement at Fushimi Inari Taisha from an early date.The Hata family, migrants from the continent who achieved considerable political and economic prominence after settling in the Kyoto region, established a place to worship its tutelary deity on Mount Inari, southeast of Kyoto, and shrine records maintain that Inari Daimyōjin, in the guise of Uka no Mitama no Kami, was installed there as the central deity on the First Day of the Horse (Hatsuuma) in the Second Month of 711. The Fushimi Inari Taisha, or Grand Shrine, as it became known, moved to the foot of the mountain in 816 and subsequently emerged as one of the most significant centers of worship in the Kyoto area, particularly for farmers of the area.

Inari's popularity continued to spread throughout the medieval period, as people came to revere him not only as the guardian deity of agriculture but also as the protector of commerce and the defender of certain artisanal groups, such as smiths.By the end of the middle ages believers could worship Inari in

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