In a recent “Developer Story” video from E3 2015, famed gaming creator Shigeru Miyamoto explained how the concept for the well-known Star Fox series spawned from his love of a local shrine in his native Kyoto. While Kyoto is famously home to thousands of ancient Japanese shrines, the one that inspired a young Miyamoto was the staggering Fushimi Inari-taisha.

Since I’m currently staying in Kyoto on vacation with my wife, we decided to make the trek down to the well known shrine. It wasn’t a far walk from the subway station and it was swarming with locals and tourists alike. The first thing we noticed was all the fox idols and fountains. Many of them holding items in their mouths, mostly rice grains like this fellow below.

There are dozens and dozens of these foxes spread throughout the shrine. Big foxes, small foxes, foxes with capes - every kind of fox you could ever want. The fox is regarded as a messenger in Japanese folklore and can be found at almost every Inari shrine.


Then there are the gates. Though they’re called “torii” in Japan. Fushimi Inari-taisha is world famous for it’s “10,000 torii”. Yes, there are actually TEN THOUSAND gates at this shrine. Like foxes, they range in shape and complexity, but still. That’s a lot of gates.

Each of the main gates that folks can walk through are donated by a business. Said business has their name scrawled on the side of the tall orange pillars. Miyamoto mentioned that gates and arches make people want to go through them, this is the basis for the rings and many architectural choices in the Star Fox series. He’s right, it’s fun! Though it doesn’t take much skill to walk through these enormous gates. Maybe if I was in an arwing...


There are multiple paths you can follow up the mountain to the top of the shrine, each with its own gates and foxes along the way. This is also very reminiscent of the Star Fox series, as many levels have alternate paths that can lead to different end bosses or power-ups. The hike is a pretty long one and my wife and I were both sweating as we reached the last few gates near the top.

Going down was a much faster walk and it struck me that I could/should try to film the gates as we descended the mountain. Despite many stares and my short infatuation with a small cat (I named him Star Kitten) that’s exactly what I did.



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Follow the author of this post on Twitter @SuperBentendo. He is currently in Japan eating too much ramen and buying too many video games.