Though Japan has no small number of temples and shrines, Toyokawa Inari in Aichi Prefecture has no trouble standing out from the crowd. One of Japan’s three major temples to Inari Okami—the fox god—the vast 12.73-hectare grounds serve as both a Buddhist and Shinto place of worship. You’ll be in awe from the start as you pass through a mighty door over four meters high and enter the premises, where you’ll be greeted by a majestic torii shrine gate and imposing Niō temple guardians, showing the coexistence of Japan’s two major religious traditions.
The temple is home to countless historical treasures, from the buildings themselves—the oldest extant structure, the sanmon gate, dates back to 1536—to a collection of century-spanning artifacts including Buddha statues, scrolls and folding screens, and a palanquin. The highlight, however, is undoubtedly the “Hill of Foxes” (Reiko-zuka). Passing through a winding path into a sacred grove, you’ll emerge on a hillside dotted with literally thousands of red-bibbed fox statues—truly a scene from another world. These foxes are said to be messengers to the gods, and who knows? They just might hear your wish.
Though the shrine is a must-visit destination at any time of the year, it’s especially lively during the New Year’s holidays, and at the time of its three festivals—the Great Spring Festival in May, the Mitama Festival in August, and the Toyokawa Great Autumn Festival in November. After you’ve explored the temple grounds and worked up an appetite, be sure to stop in one of the shops that line the nearby streets to snack on inari-zushi—sweetened tofu pouches filled with sushi rice and named for the fox god.
Toyokawa Inari has been a favorite destination of famous warlords and merchants throughout history. One trip to this site of mystical beauty in Aichi and you’re sure to see why!
Hours: The grounds are open to visitors from 5:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (Please note that the doors of the main temple hall close at 6:00 p.m.)
Admission: Free (A donation of 3,000 yen or more is required to participate in the prayer service.)
Address: 1 Toyokawacho, Toyokawa City, Aichi Prefecture
Airport: Chubu Centrair International Airport
+81-533-85-2030 (Toyokawa Kaku Myogonji Temple / Toyokawa Inari)
From Nagoya Station, take the Meitetsu Limited Express to Kō Station (about 45 minutes). From there, transfer to the Meitetsu Toyokawa Line Express to Toyokawa-inari Station. The temple is a 3-minute walk from the station.