Scenic Shinto Shrine Causing Debate over Name Change

Society Culture Guide to Japan

Nagato, Yamaguchi Pref., Nov. 5 (Jiji Press)--Motonosumi Inari Shrine in western Japan, which became famous after joining CNN's list of the 31 most beautiful places in the country, has triggered an online controversy by deciding to shorten its name to make it easier for foreign tourists to remember.

In March 2015, CNN put the Shinto shrine, built in 1955 in Nagato, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on the list, highlighting its 123 bright red "torii" gates that stretch to a cliff overlooking the Sea of Japan.

Thanks to the listing, the number of visitors to the shrine, which stood around 30,000 in 2014, increased to some 75,000 in 2015 and surged to about 1.08 million in 2017.

"We began considering changing the name of our shrine about two years ago into something easy to remember for travelers from abroad, who had kept increasing," said Yoriki Okamura, 70, chief priest of Motonosumi Inari Shrine.

In January this year, based on what it called a divine prophecy, the shrine decided to drop "Inari" from its name and start identifying itself as Motonosumi Shrine from Jan. 1, 2019. Inari is a Shinto deity. The shrine has put up posters about the name change on its grounds, including at its office. However, the move has faced some criticism, including on Twitter.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd. Content edited by the Nippon.com editorial team.]

tourism shrine religion Jiji Press Yamaguchi Shintō