One day, a friend from Kyoto told me jokingly, “Fushimi temple slowly becomes an amusement park”. I respond to his opinion with a paradoxical laugh while I quietly contemplate his opinion. It is true, Shinto temple, which is known for their torii gates that creates hallways is now packed with tourists. The crowd can even be seen starting after crossing the exit of Fushimi Inari station to the temple area. Especially during the spring, one of the best seasons to visit Japan. The beauty of torii gates colored with bursts of orange and red is one of their attractions for tourists to take pictures. Maybe you have seen some photos of it through social media platforms, for example Instagram.
I visited Fushimi Inari-Taisha in the midday of April 27th 2019 to record a soundscape. Silence is not what I earned. The noises caused by the packed tourists is boisterous starting from the temple’s gate entrance. What’s more ironic to me is during my recording, there were many guests that rung the bells disrespectfully. A lot of the guests pulled the string attached to the bel harshly, non-stop whilst pretending it was a toy. Perhaps it is entertaining to hear the bells ring. Every now and then the guards there seems overwhelmed from reminding the tourists that went overboard on ringing the bell, still with such a typical Japanese manner, high polite. Whereas truly these bells are used as a mediator for praying. There is an applied etiquette in ringing the bells of Shinto: first, by bowing. Then followed by dedicating a coin, and then ring the bell. After that, bow again twice and pray while clapping hands softly twice. The procedure ends by bowing once more before stepping back.
Naturally, of course not all tourists are impolite. A lot of them still has respect. Not to be fussy, even though I do not follow Shinto, temple is not a playground. If they want to use the bell unlimitedly, they should not do it here. Culture is a process of learning, and that include respecting other beliefs.