February 11th is most widely known in Japan as National Foundation Day (Kenkoku Kinen no Hi) in Japan, which celebrates the founding of the Japanese nation by the Emperor Jimmu according to the Nihonshoki (Japan’s record of ancient history and legends). It’s also Hatsuuma, the main festival for celebrating Inari Okami, as it commemorates Inari-sama’s descent from Inari Mountain in Kyoto. Incidentally, Hatsu-uma literally means “first horse,” and refers to the ancient calendar system of Japan.
We had a day off work for National Foundation Day, but due to family and social engagements I wasn’t able to pay my respects to Inari-sama until late at night. In addition to my usual offerings of water, sake, rice and salt, I also offered Inari-zushi; a type of sushi made from fried tofu, so named because in Japan foxes, Inari-sama’s messengers, are said to eat tofu. In addition to this, I offered a tiny bottle of umeshuu, Japanese plum wine, and burned plum incense. This seemed appropriate because early spring is the time for plum blossoms in Japan, and additionally, the word “ume” (plum) sounds a bit like the “uma” (horse) from Hatsuuma. When I made these offerings, I recited the prayer to Inari-sama from my Shinto Norito book.
I also chose this day to make a donation towards the fund for a new torii at Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America, as well as The Fox Project. The latter seemed particularly important considering the terrible things that have been happening to our local foxes recently at the hands of man, and I feel that as a devotee of Inari-sama I ought to help any effort to protect her messengers.