The way I see it, Japan has always been advertised to Western societies as a preserved culture of ancient ways with an opportunity of spiritual escape. It is true. With over 70,000 temples dispersed in major metropolisis’ to small villages throughout the country (Kyoto boasts a staggering 3,000+ temples alone) it’s hard as a tourist not to visit at least one. On our first day we did exactly that: we visited Fushimi Inari Shrine which was an amazing journey that came as a surprise.
Like many tourists sites, this place was packed with both foreign and domestic visitors (but still very clean!). It is on the boarder of the city and leads into a mountainous forest. The lower levels are busy but the higher you go, the better escape of the bustling.
Fox in the beginning holds the key to the shrines.
The characters on the side of the pillars are only visible when heading back to the main site. These characters are people who have donated to the temple to honor their ancestors and in turn help preserve its beauty. The bigger the gate, the bigger the donation. Some pillars were corroded at the base while some were shiny, crisp, and new.
Moments with no one on the path is rare but the further you go, the emptier it gets.
What’s crazy is that the color of these pillars are actually red with a hint of orange but it was difficult capturing its true color on camera. This is how the pillars appear as you continue your journey upward – no markings. I really enjoyed this detail: as you head toward the top of the mountain, the pillars are there to guide and show that you are going the correct way while on the way back it has all the donators names as if saying “if it weren’t for these people and their family, you wouldn’t be walking this path”, thank you.
The shocker: this was a HIKE! Maps are located along the path of where you are and minutes of which direction you chose to get to the top are also noted. However, be prepared (mentally): The maps may say you are at point ‘X’ and point ‘Y’ is just a few feet up, but in real time it is a an upscale battle and going from point ‘X’ to point ‘Y’ may take you 10-15 minutes in what looks like a simple next point. I would compare this to the Kokohead hike on Oahu. It was not as daunting (the trees provide nice shade), but was long and had many stairs. We weren’t mentally prepared so this was a surprise at how long it took us and how far it actually went into the mountains. Although difficult, at the same time, it was enjoyable. Maybe it was because we never did it before we thought that way, maybe since everything was new scenery it took us longer than we realized or maybe because the aura of the ambience put us in a gentle trance. No matter what, it was a great workout!
City views as the forest opens up. This is one of many pit stops going upward.
About 45 minutes to an hour later (most breaks were photo opportunities) we reached it: The top of the mountain. From the picture above, these shrines had smaller gateways and are even available for purchase in small shops throughout the path. These shops also provide snacks/food if you get hungry and most importantly, water. There are also vending machines on the pathway to purchase water or other liquids that contain electrolytes to rehydrate you.
What was supposed to be a sight seeing tour, turned out to be a surreal hiking journey! Completely worth it. I’m proud we completed this because the map was misleading and at times killed our motivation. To be honest, there were a few moments of “should we continue?” Although we ran out of water, were not properly equipped with walking shoes, and experienced daunting heat, we overcame it! We had no idea that this was going to be a full on hike to the top of a mountain! There are enough pit stops to rest and even “good enough” points to turn around. To be frank, the top had no view, it was just a shop with more shrines, so nothing new to see but the satisfaction of completing a last minute goal brought great contentment.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward
Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-0882, Japan
“The key to success is to keep growing in all areas of life – mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical.”
– Julius Erving