Japan Autumn 2019: Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Japan Autumn 2019: Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

This might be hard to believe but I’ve actually not visited Fushimi Inari Taisha ( 伏見稲荷大社 ) before. I did plan it in on our last visit to Kyoto but at the time, the day before I was gonna go, I ended up with a leg injury so I decided to scrap that as it would have been hard to climb the entire Mt. Inari at the time. The main reason why we decided to returned to Kyoto so soon was because of this. The morning of my trip to the shrine Dan decided that he is feeling a little tired and would rather stay in the hotel to rest and work by himself and so I proceeded to go alone. I set out to walk there rather than take the train. It was about an hour and a half + of walking from central Kyoto. I quite enjoy hiking so walking through new unknown, environment is pure pleasure to me. I’ve actually found many little treasures and interesting places that way over the years. Many of my best travel memories were formed during one of these spontaneous hikes. I must mention that I’m not one of these people who try to cram in as many activities and sight seeing spots in a day as humanly possible. I just can’t do it. Sure, I probably miss out on some ‘hot tourist destinations’ that way but I’d still rather pace myself and take things easy than rush through every experience. You could say I’m a lazy traveler… or just that I’m not particularly afraid of missing out. A part of travelling is taking in the landscapes, culture, food, and activities. But how can you truly explore it if you plan every day to the exact minute? Slowing down while travelling allows you to immerse yourself into the experience that you are having and thus have a more wholesome travel experience, leaving a memorable and lasting impression. You might not be able to see everything that you wish you had seen but in exchange you will feel relaxed and have the space to capture more of the little, magical moments that surround you; so are you really missing out?

 I feel like it’s self-explanatory but I see people whining about Kyoto being over-hyped because of how crowded it is (when it’s not pandemicland) ,which I understand, but as someone who really enjoys Kyoto, just go to the most popular places very early in the morning. To me it’s something really obvious but apparently this is not how majority of people approach sight seeing judging by the crowds-or-lack there of. I have seen both the Inari Shrine and the Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama almost completely void of tourists. You can than spend the rest of the day exploring outside of the tourist hotspots ,which is absolutely amazing. When I arrived at Fushimi Inari Taisha all the little shops and snack stands were still shut for the most part. Except for one bus of school kids there was no one else around. I’ve made it all the way to the top of Mt. Inari and back down mostly walking under the rows of Torii Gates and explored all the Power Spots all by myself with only sounds of nature accompanying me.

Founded in 711 and built on Mt. Inari in Fushimi, Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha has been a place of worship for people since ancient times. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and sake. With it’s 10 000 vermillion Torii Gates winding their way up the wooded sacred mount Inari (233masl) it has become one of the most iconic and most photographed spots in Japan. Each of the Torii gates has been donated by an individual or a Japanese business in the hope of receiving good luck and fortune. The name of the donor is inscribed in black ink on the back of each gate. The entire pathway up the mountain is about 4 km with dozens of Power Spots, sub-shrines and graveyards along the way so make sure to wear comfy shoes if you wish to get all the way to the top. If you want to explore the trail in accordance to the Shinto faith it’s best to start your journey starting from the clockwise direction. There are also a few restaurants along the way, which offer locally themed dishes. The trail is accessible 24h so you can come here at any time of the day.

Walking around Fushimi Inrai you will quickly notice the many stone fox or kitsune statues along the way. The fox is considered a messenger of Inari. In the Japanese Shinto faith, there are many different gods of the natural world. These gods, or kami, are frequently believed to have picked an animal to act as their messengers. In case of Inari it’s a white fox ,which is also commonly thought of as the deity itself. Because of this, many shrines dedicated to Inari shrines will feature fox statues that serve as shrine guardians against evil spirits. Another thing you may notice at Fushimi Inari and other shrines and temples in Japan is that many of the statues wear a red bib. In the Shinto, red is the color of the gods and is said to ward off evil and malevolent energy. Hence the color of the Torii gates themselves is red too.

Many people only climb as far as the little spot where you can see Kyoto from above. I’ve set out to complete the whole route myself. As you ascend the Torii gates will become smaller and less densely placed. This trend will remain as you descent down the mountain path. On my way back I’ve made sure to write my wishes on ema boards (as well as buy another pair to take home ,as per usual) as well as lit a candle in one of the sub shrines to leave my prayer and offering. Along the way I have come across a few adorable kitty cats ,which live and are taken care of by the people who run the teahouses dotting the slopes of Mount Inari. Most of the cats are very friendly and eager to interact with the visitors.

Once down I’ve explored the rest of the complexes on the shrine grounds as well and bought some snacks and souvenirs. I’d highly recommend taking the time to explore the near by area for delicious cafes and restaurants before heading for your next destination.

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