Ghost of Tsushima - Inari Shrine Lore (Spoiler free)
In Ghost of Tsushima, Inari shrines are scattered across the map and are worth finding to expand the number of charms your character can equip at a time. But what significance did these shrines have in Japanese culture during the period the game takes place in and also in the present day? So far I’m enjoying Ghosts of Tsushima, and you should also check it out if you enjoy games like Assassins Creed. But before you start, switch the dialogue to Japanese with English subtitles because the voice acting is superb and gives it a more authentic tone.
Lets first look at Inari shrines in present-day Japanese culture. One of the most famous landmarks and tourist sites in Japan has to be the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto and you’ve probably seen pictures of if you have friends, family, or acquaintances that have been to Japan. It’s distinguishing feature is the orange and black tori gates you walk through that lead to the shrine within. It says there are about 1,000 torii gates around the main path and thousands more lining the road up to the mountain, and the writing you see shows each one has been dedicated to the shrine by an individual or group. Torii gates are traditionally made of wood or stone, but modern ones can be made of other materials like steel. Similar to the type of material, Torii gates come in different styles and have specific names based on its construction. For example, the Torii gates to the Fushimi Inari shrine are called Senbon Torii, senbon translating directly to thousands of something.
Back to Ghost of Tsushima, there are locations called fox dens where a cute red fox will lead you to the exact location of a nearby Inari shrine, usually along a mountain or off the beaten trail. So what’s the story with the fox, the significance of the fox statues, and why is it called an Inari shrine. In the Shinto religion, the indigenous region of Japan, Inari is the Okami (or deity) of rice, agriculture, and fertility among many other things. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the 30,000 shrines dedicated to Inari across Japan. In the time of feudal Japan where the game takes place, samurai would give offerings to Inari who had become the patron of blacksmiths and seen as the protector of warriors. Inari has been depicted both as a male and female in traditional painting but is more commonly seen as a female today with Inari’s connection to fertility.
The Okami Inari hasn’t always been associated with foxes, but where you see shrines dedicated to Inari, you will often see statues of the fox, like at the previously mentioned Fushimi Inari shrine. Its believed that the fox becomes associated with Inari because rodents eat rice, and foxes eat rodents, therefore seen as doing Inari’s work as the Okami of rice and agriculture. The red fox isn’t an Okami like Inari but is considered Inari’s messenger. In Japanese, a red fox is called a Kitsune, and the Kitsune is a popular creature with roots in Japanese folklore. Kitsune is not only a fox, but a Yokai which are a class of supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons in Japanese fables and stories. Often represented with many tails, like Vulpix and Ninetails from pokemon or Kurama from Naruto. Kitsune are known to be extremely intelligent, provide good luck, and warding evil spirits away, but at the same time are mischievous and delight in playing tricks and pulling off pranks. Stories say that if you help a Kitsune you will be blessed with good fortune, but if you get on its bad side bad luck befalls you.
So in the game when you give tribute to the fox statue you are invoking the Okami Inari to protect you on your journey and battles against the Mongols. After the foxes lead you to the shrines, they run away to an unknown location. Could this mean that they are Yokai, or spirits leading Jin, maybe by the direction of Inari? Similar to how the spirit of Jin’s father is present with you in the form of the guiding wind. Or could there be more sinister motivations at play? Kitsune are also known to shapeshift into beautiful women, children, or old people, often to trick or manipulate people they encounter. They often stay in their human forms for long periods, taking on regular jobs, getting married to other humans, and starting families. But sometimes when they are surprised, careless, or drunk their disguises can fail and some of their true features like fur, tail, or fangs reveal themselves.
The benefit of visiting these Inari shines in-game is that it allows you to equip more charms. While visiting shrines and temples in Japan, you will often see vendors or gift shops selling charms or talismans called Omamori. These charms contain a small prayer on the inside covered by a silky cloth but are not meant to be opened as that will release the blessing that’s contained within. Unlike the properties of the charms you collect in the game like dealing extra damage, there are different types of Omamori to bring you good luck in various areas of your life. Popular ones include those that are supposed to bring you good fortune and money, bring success in school or your career and more traditional ones that ward away evil spirits and misfortune. There are hundreds of different kinds today ranging from finding love to preventing getting a virus on your computer. These pocket-sized blessings were meant to be carried around with you or left at home where you will be around it often. These Omamori do have “expiration dates” as its blessings wear off after about a year when you should return to the shrine or temple to pay your respects and acquire a new one.
While I haven’t finished the game yet, there was a side quest where you encounter a forest believed to be haunted by Yokai, so there could be more references to Japanese folklore and other Okami down the road. Let me know if you guys enjoyed this post and quick video. How are you liking Ghosts of Tsushima so far? As I get further into the game, I plan to create more of these videos, as there seems to be a lot of cool Japanese history and lore that the game incorporates. Thanks for reading or watching the video, leave a comment, like or consider subscribing if you want to see more content like this in the future. So until next time, take care.
Senbon images: By Paul Vlaar - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=326471 By Dariusz Jemielniak ("Pundit") - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33859872 By Luka Peternel - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90581823
Kitsune Statues: By Fumihiko Ueno, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53780452 By Dariusz Jemielniak ("Pundit") - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33860187
Tori Gates: By Hiroki Masaki - 編集者撮影, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6321212 By Rdsmith4 - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67543 By Reggaeman - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7659017 By 663highland - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1308124 Inari paintings: By Ogata Gekkō (1859-1920) - (1) Gallery Dutta, Geneva, inventory 2/1. (2) Ukiyo-e.org , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=286349 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=317445 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=626913
Kitsune images: By Utagawa Kuniyoshi - http://visipix.com/search/search.php?userid=1616934267&q=%272aAuthors/K/Kuniyoshi%201797-1861%2C%20Utagawa%2C%20Japan%27&s=17&l=en&u=2&ub=1&k=1, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=317096 By Shiretoko-Shari Tourist Association, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=361 https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Vulpix_(Pok%C3%A9mon) https://villains.fandom.com/wiki/Kurama_(Naruto)?file=Kurama_Render.png Omamori images: Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14182567 By Leongboy1 - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5048916
Sources for Inari, folklore, Omamori, and Fushimi Inari Shrine: https://matcha-jp.com/en/284 https://www.sarehprice.com/blog/kitsune-inari-mythology http://yokai.com/kitsune/ https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2015/05/japanese-lucky-charms-the-guide-to-omamori/ https://www.tofugu.com/japan/kitsune-yokai-fox/