INARI – The Shinto rice god. His wife was the goddess Ukemochi and when she was slain by the moon god he married Mitama, the goddess of agriculture. His son was the scarecrow and divination deity Kuyebiko. There are even versions of Shinto myths in which Saki is said to be Inari’s daughter and the goddess of the intoxicating drink Saki like Dionysus is the god of wine in Greek myths.

Inari often roamed the rice fields of Earth, sometimes in the form of a fox, his familiar animal. This connection between the rice god and foxes came from the way foxes often prey on birds and vermin who try feeding on the rice crops being raised for human consumption. Inari is usually depicted in the company of a fox or two and is carrying a sack which contains an inexhaustible supply of rice. Every home contained a shrine to Inari.

In some ancient sources Inari is depicted as both male and female or just as a female. This is similar to the way in which the sun goddess Amaterasu is depicted as instead being a male deity in some sources, most notably the Hotsuma Tsutae. Behind the blurring of the gender of these deities seems to be the manner in which the oldest written sources of Shinto myths, the Kojiki and the Nihongi, portray male and female couples as co-deities in the early stages of creation. Think of the concept like Gnostic syzygies, but without the built-in opposition. 

Another myth features Inari wandering ancient Japan in human form as a decrepit old man. The only people in their village who treat the disguised god kindly are an elderly childless couple. To reward the couple for their benevolent nature Inari reveals his true self to them and gives them a small bag of rice which will replenish itself so that they will never go hungry. He also grants their wish to finally have a child, with their adopted offspring being the tiny Issun Boshi, the famous Inch- High Samurai from Shinto mythology. Issun Boshi would have many adventures and slay various monsters before earning full human size and a bride from a wealthy family.

In some versions of the Inari story he is the real father of the semi-divine Kusanada, the rice paddy goddess who married the Shinto storm god Susanowo during his exile on Earth.


 © Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  


Filed under Mythology


  1. Did you know you have an ad above your banner for “Post A Prayer Request – thousands will pray for you” from the Christian Prayer Centre.
    i really like the way “the oldest written sources of Shinto myths, the Kojiki and the Nihongi, portray male and female couples as co-deities” – I do like that a lot.

    • I’m glad that appeals to you! The Kojiki and Nihongi are great reading!

      Actually I’m in the Wordads program so the ads people see are based on their own search history. Since you and I both cruise a lot a of myth and religion items (albeit ones critical of religion) that must be why you saw that one.

  2. Woman

    I feel left out!!! I never see wordads because I’ve the pop up blocker on.

  3. That inch high samurai sounds so cool! Do u have more about him?

  4. Looking forward to a post on Issun Boshi!

  5. u come up with a lot of info on gods and goddesses that other online sources don’t have.

  6. Outstanding look at this god!

  7. I gotta love this deity!

  8. Great post about a forgotten god!

  9. Leatrice

    This is as great as your other mythology posts!

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