Over the weekend, I went with some friends to Fushimi Inari-taisha (伏見稲荷大社), a huge and famous Shinto shrine known for its winding trail up the mountain lined with thousands of torii gates. I mentioned I was able to visit Fushimi Inari-taisha very briefly last week, but we were unable to finish the entire 2-hour long hike, so I was really happy I was able to go back and see the hike through to the finish!
Before starting the hike, the three of us stopped at this shrine for a kamisama of study and school located on the main shrine’s grounds. I prayed so that I can do well with classes this year (which start on October 1, by the way!). Before leaving, we took a minute to admire all of these bundles of paper cranes, made by other students who must have also wished for academic success.
We had heard the complete hike up the mountain would take about two hours, but as none of us had ever done the full hike before, we were excited. Despite the hike being composed of mostly stairs, walking underneath the thousands of torii gates was so beautiful and peaceful, that the actual hike itself didn’t feel too arduous.
The beginning of the hike up the mountain was crowded with other tourists, but soon after we passed this rest stop at the Yotsutsuji intersection, the crowds quickly dissipated! I think most sightseers are satisfied just making it to the rest stop, as it offers the best views of Kyoto, pictured here. But the three of us were determined to make it all the way, and so we continued on!
Along the mountain trail were numerous other shrines like this. Every now and again we took a break from the seemingly endless stairs to have a wander among such shrines. If you look closely, in front of the shrine with the bells is a tiny cup! There were many cups filled with sake offerings like that scattered throughout the way.
A family stopping to pray at one such shrine. Inari is a principal Shinto god known for having fox messengers, so there were fox statues everywhere.
Despite it being a hot and sunny day, the further up the mountain we went, the cooler and more shady it became. I am in love with the mood of the higher areas of the hike: very solemn and quiet. Being up amongst this scenery, you totally forget that at the bottom of the mountain is a lively, crowded area full of tourists!
Unexpectedly, the three of us reached the summit without any warning! Unfortunately, the summit of the hike is surrounded by shrines and trees which completely obscure the view. I had hoped for another, even more scenic view of Kyoto, but had no such luck! (No wonder most tourists stop at the Yotsutsuji intersection!)
However, there was a small surprise waiting for us at the summit area:
This little guy! When we arrived, he was curled up having a nap on that little stone pillar, but we and some other sightseers woke him up by petting him. He seemed pretty ambivalent about our presence and ignored us all to bathe himself.
On our way down the mountain (which was significantly easier and faster), we also came across this cat having a nap in front of a shrine with a lot of frog statues, rather than fox statues. He was sleeping so peacefully I didn’t try to wake him.
(Hmm, somehow my posts always seem to include cat photos. I think it’s because I miss my two cats so much!)
Fushimi Inari-taisha is undoubtedly a beautiful place. When I next come back, I think I’ll try to come in the very, very early morning to beat the crowds. That being said, with no entrance fee and with much fewer tourists further up the hike, this was a truly wonderful way to spend the afternoon.