Inari: Meaning of the Japanese Word

The word “inari (稲荷/いなり)” reminds many of us of “inari jinja (稲荷神社: inari shrine)” or “inarizushi (稲荷寿司: inari sushi)”.

If you are acquainted with Japanese culture, you should know “kitsune (狐)” or “fox” has another name, inari.

But why is that animal called so, and what exactly does inari mean? Do you know?

Meaning of Inari (稲荷/いなり)

Inari Meaning

Inari originally refers to “ukanomitama no kami (倉稲魂神)”, a deity (Shintoism) who appears in Japanese mythology looking after the grain,

who are identified with the god “inari no kami (稲荷神)” or “oinarisan (お稲荷さん)”.

Ukanomitama no kami had another name of “miketsu kami (御食津神)”, but at some point, the kanji characters with the same reading “三狐” were applied for the “miketsu (御食津)” part.

As, in the name of “三狐神”,  the kanji “狐” meaning “fox” is included, it is said that, later, kitsune or fox came to be regarded as a messenger of ukanomitama no kami or inari no kami.

Inari can also refer to Aburaage (deep-fried tofu) because it is believed in Japan kitsune or fox likes it. 

Aburaage was once offered to the inari shrine, and thus, the sushi using that food came to be called inarizushi. 


In conclusion, inari in the Japanese language has the following four meanings.

  1. Inari no kami or inari shrine
  2. Kitsune or fox 
  3. Aburaage
  4. Inarizushi

(Reference Pages: Goo Japanese Dictionary, )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

2 Responses

  1. rox says:

    Ooh I see now ! It is funny that a fox is the guardian of the rice. Thank you for the explanation !

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