Home » A fox parade at Shozoku Inari Shrine

A fox parade at Shozoku Inari Shrine

I usually don’t go out for New Year’s Eve, but 2019 was an exception.  That night I went to Oji station in Tokyo’s Kita ward.  The Shozoku Inari Shrine was the starting point of a rather unusual event.  They had a fox parade.  It was my first time there.

Japanese woman in kimono wth fox mask

If you didn’t know, Inari is one of the most important gods of the Shinto pantheon. The deity is connected with prosperity and good fortune.  Apparently, more than one-third of shrines in Japan are dedicated to the god.

Shozoku Inari Shrine torii gate
Japanese person in kimono and fox mask

During the Edo period, Oji Inari Shrine was a designated prayer center.  It was an important place of worship.  According to tradition, foxes (the servants of the god) would visit on New Year’s Eve.  

They would change into formal clothes under a tree and parade to the shrine.  Once there, they would pay homage to Inari.  Hiroshige Utagawa, an ukiyo-e artist, made a print about it (click here to see it).

couple at fox parade in Oji
lanterns and fox masks

Since 1993, local people dressed in kimonos and fox masks reenact that night.  They walk from Shozoku Inari Shrine at midnight to Oji Inari Shrine, arriving in the early hours of New Year’s Day.  I was thrilled to see it, if only for a short time!  

man fox outfit at Shozoku Inari Shrine

Time was against me.  My house was far away, and I needed to be up for sunrise on New Year’s Day.  And I wanted to get these pictures published quickly, so I left early.  That was a decision I have regretted ever since!  It would have been fun to have done the entire walk to Oji Inari with the group.  

man in fox mask

Yes, I put it on my bucket list!  A New Year’s Resolution?  The pandemic has forced its cancellation a couple of times since 2019.  With some luck, it will return in 2022.

Shozoku Inari Shrine

Have you participated in this parade?  Let us know if you have. By the way, if you ever visit this shrine, the Hokutopia observatory is nearby. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. 

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