There is no dearth of shrines in Kyoto. In fact, as we were leaving Kyoto we felt that we hadn’t seen enough shrines. But that’s hardly possible if you’re there for just three days (like we were). So, when we made a list of shrines that we wanted to visit, the Fushimi Inari Shrine was the first.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is the most important of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. The shrine is located in south Kyoto and is easily accessible through the JR Inari Station.
An Endless Hike Of Toriis
Google Fushimi Inari Shrine and most of the pictures you see are of its toriis (vermilion gates). There are literally thousands upon thousands of toriis that cover the hiking trails, behind the shrine, that go all the way up to Mount Inari. Apparently, each torii is donated and the name of the individual (or company) is inscribed on the torii.
The hike up to the top of Mount Inari can easily take between 2 to 4 hours. There are also multiple trails to the top, each covered with the toriis to give the illusion of an endless path of torii gates.
We came completely unprepared for this visit not realising how much walking was involved. Although we didn’t have any agenda to reach the top of Mount Inari, we were just curious to keep walking and discovering.
Foxes at Fushimi Inari
Fun fact: There are numerous statues of foxes along the way because foxes are considered to be Inari’s messengers.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine Map – Do Not Trust It
It wasn’t just us, but every single person who felt cheated by the map. The map of Mount Inari is completely misleading because it’s in no way drawn to scale. What seems like a short distance between any two points on the map is in fact a long hike on the hill! We kept walking and walking, hoping that the next checkpoint would be around the corner. And after we reached what we thought was the next checkpoint, we realised we’d barely moved a millimetre on the map!
Half Way There – The Yotsutsuji Intersection
At our slow touristy pace (and ignoring the map) we finally made it to the Yotsutsuji intersection, which is about the half way mark to the summit, in over an hour. The sun had almost set and the wind was picking up. I don’t think either of us was prepared to hike this far. But we did it nonetheless. At the Yotsutsuji intersection the views of Kyoto are spectacular. It’s only then we’d realised how high we had managed to climb.
After soaking in the views, we decided to call it a day at the Fushimi Inari Shrine and go Geisha spotting in the Gion district.
On the way down, we couldn’t help but laugh and pity the moaning and complaining tourists who stood in disbelief in front of the map.