|dc.description.abstract||As the deities known as Inari, foxes are vital to the religious and cultural landscape of Japan. Inari are given little consideration in the academic study of Japanese religions in English, despite their overwhelming presence and popularity in Japan. This is, in large part, due to the privileging of a Protestant definition of religion in the academic study of religion. Animating Inari addresses this lack of consideration by seeking to better understand Inari in Japan, particularly through the contexts of contemporary Shintō and popular worship (which are also severely underrepresented in scholarship). In order to explore Inari on the ground, this project is situated in the context of Fushimi Inari Taisha, the headquarters of Inari worship located in Kyoto. This project investigates the anime (animated television series), Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha (or Inakon), which depicts Fushimi Inari Taisha through the life of a young girl, named Inari, and her relationship with the deity, known as Uka. In conjunction with my own experience at this shrine, I use Inakon as a tool with which to consider the popular aspects of Shintō, particularly as visible through Inari worship.
By examining Inari worship, the characters and themes of Inakon, and the presence of fox characters in other Japanese popular media, it is apparent that Inari’s popularity is in large part due to the warm relationships they have with Japanese people and how they respond to their everyday concerns. This is in direct contrast to the more nationalistic leanings of the Jinja Honchō (National Association of Shintō Shrines), which is too often privileged in the academic study of Shintō at the expense of popular worship. Inari reflect the more popular concerns of contemporary Shintō: the connections and intimate bonds that exist between people, as well as the deities. By highlighting the functions of and attitudes towards Inari, especially in contrast to Jinja Honchō, it becomes clear that Inari resonate with Japanese on a profound level.||en_US