Go for the history and culture. Stay for the silly artwork.

With no shortage of historical and culturally significant sites, Japan’s former capital of Kyoto has, in recent years, drawn in over 8.7 million visitors annually. One of the most popular destinations in the city, which itself brings in approximately 2.7 million visitors a year, is the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Fushimi Inari Shrine is best known for its distinctive bright red torii shrine gates, many thousands of which line the hiking trails that lead from the main shrine at the base of the mountain and snake their way up to the top. However, since foxes were said to be the messengers of the god Inari, another thing you’ll notice is the presence of foxes throughout the grounds of the shrine, from the statues at the shrine entrance, to the ema wish boards shaped like a fox’ head.

Most shrines in Japan sell the wooden ema plaques for around 500 yen (US$4.50). One side generally features an illustrated image and the backside is left blank so a wish can be written on it. Most of the time they will be rectangular-ish in shape, but the ema at Fushimi Inari are triangular, and are painted white with little ears to resemble a fox’s head. The face is left blank, allowing for the wish-maker to also draw on a fox face of their own. Or, any other face that suits them, really.

After writing down your wish, ema are then left hanging at the shrine for the gods to come receive them. At Fushimi Inari, though, we’re pretty sure the gods also come to chuckle at all of the silly and creative faces that people draw on them.

▼ Friezox? Foxza?

When the fox is your canvas, it’s easy to let the imagination run wild.

▼ There is no shortage of genuinely impressive artistry either.

Fushimi Inari Shrine has seen a surge in popularity with foreign visitors in recent years, and with its impressive torii display contrasted by the surrounding natural beauty it’s easy to see why. If you take a trip there yourself, be sure to leave your mark with a funny fox face of your own!

Featured image: Twitter/@416mri