If you’re spending even a short amount of time in Japan, visiting at least one Buddhist temple and one Shinto shrine should definitely be on your list. It doesn’t matter too much which one you go to — they all tend to be lovely places with great atmospheres. Of course, some are bigger and fancier than others, and some just have better locations, like on top of mountains or in forests.
However, it turns out that, according to certain legends flying around on Twitter right now, you might want to be careful about which shrines you visit, or something spooky could be waiting for you…
伏見稲荷はまず昼間に行って一通り回ってから日が暮れるか暮れないかくらいの頃に登り始めて中腹あたりで完全に日が暮れた状態になるのがベスト こういう感じの日常から異界に変わっていく風景が見られる http://t.co/htRWoQR5FQ—
浪花道またたび子 (@naniwadou999) May 22, 2015
Our first story isn’t exactly scary, but it’s definitely unsettling. According to the story, two friends had gone to Fushimi-inari Motomiya Festival at Fushimi-inari Shrine and, after the sun had started to set and the sky was growing dark, they found themselves lost. Trying to get home, they started heading down the wrong path when a they heard a man’s voice tell them, from behind, “No, that’s the wrong way.” Taking the adjacent path, they shortly saw a throng of festival goers a short distance ahead and turned around to say thank you…but there was no one there. The story goes that they had been helped by a friendly fox spirit.
▼ Oddly, helpful fox spirits don’t show up in the commercial…
The next myth isn’t quite so cheery. Apparently Fushimi-inari Shrine is well-known as a creepy destination, and many local college students head there to test their courage (according to the myth). As the legend goes, people will occasionally disappear as if spirited away by something supernatural. While the disappeared person will eventually return, claiming they’d only been gone a few minutes, their friends will actually have spent several hours looking for them. Apparently, Kodama Lake is particularly dangerous.
▼ We bet it’s the ducks. Never trust a mallard!
物語シリーズ セカンドシーズン 第25話 のワンカットも、伏見稲荷の「新池」（上のほうの池）になります いなり、こんこん、恋いろは。でお出かけの時に立ち寄ってみるのも良いかと思います http://t.co/M6bSI2lvFy—
テスラ (@tesra1141) January 09, 2014
Many claim that folks who go beyond the lake while sightseeing will end up in the mountains and properly lost, so, they say, if you’re going sightseeing at Fushimi-inari Shrine, you should be satisfied with seeing the lake and turn back.
While we’re not generally prone to believing ghost stories, quite a few Japanese commenters seemed to think these warnings were spot on.
“This is rather true, and you really should avoid shrines that you don’t have a good ‘connection’ with. Buddha will punish bad people proportionally, but the kami (Shinto gods) will just straight kill you because they feel like it.”
“My mother’s friend when to Fushimi-inari Shrine, but no matter how far she walked, she never got to the end of the path and finally just gave up. She claims the path was transforming.”
“Some people interpret ‘being taken’ as ‘the act of evil,’ but I get the feeling that if someone is simply spirited away, it’s just what the kami do.”
While all this might seem like strange things to say about something as innocuous as a shrine, it’s important to remember just how big the Fushimi-inari shrine is — it covers an area of roughly 870,000 square meters (about 0.336 square miles or over one million square yards)! And while it’s certainly a beautiful location, it’s hard to deny that it wouldn’t be a bit spooky at night with all those small torii gates. Not to mention, incredibly easy to get lost in!
▼ This ten minute video is a condensed version of a four to five hour hike.
While we’re not sure we really believe these ghost stories, they do add a certain air of intrigue and mystery to the shrine. If nothing else, let this serve as a warning to you to plan your outings well!