In Kyoto, inside the Kiyomizu-dera, you can find a small but colorful (and quite crowded) Shinto shrine. Although located in the temple’s premises, the shrine (built by the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1633) is separated and it is dedicated to Okuninushi-no-Mikoto, kami (god) of love, marriage and matchmaking.
Here you will notice a large statue of a hare, unusually located right next to the shrine’s kami. Like kitsune are messengers of Inari Okami, the hare from this shrine - Hare of Inaba - is the messenger of Okuninushi-no-Mikoto, sort of a Japanese version of Cupid. Here’s its story:
It is said that the hare, wanting to go to a different island, tricked the sharks to make for him a bridge, by telling them: “Let’s see how many sharks are in the ocean and how many hares are on the island. All of you stay in a row from here to the island and I’ll count you".
Then he quickly jumped over them. But when he got close to the island he laughed, telling them that it was a trick, so the last shark attacked him and peeled off his skin.
Then the hare asked the kami Okuninushi-no-Mikoto for help and kami told him to bathe in fresh water and then roll in cattail pollen. So the hare was recovered and then he became the kami’s messenger.
Okuninushi-no-Mikoto statue, Jishu Shrine, Kyoto
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: Asakusa Scramble Crossing