Journey to the Mountaintop: Fushimi Inari Shrine


The Fushimi Inari Shrine was the first touristy thing we visited while I was in Japan.  It is completely free unless you want to buy food/ souvenirs.


Fushimi Inari is a Shinto shrine that was originally established in 711 A.D. and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kyoto.  The shrine consists of a series of over 4,000 torii (gates) that lead up to the top of Mt. Inari.  Each torii is replaced every 10 years.

Kitsune statue

Kitsune Statue

A Little History

Inari is the kami (god/spirit) of foxes, fertility, rice, tea, sake, agriculture, industry, and general prosperity and worldly success (according to wikipedia). Businesses and individuals donate torii to the shrine in hopes of gaining prosperity from Inari.

Throughout the shrine we saw lots of kitsune (fox) statues which are Inari’s messengers.

 It seems I should always prepare myself to climb a mountain while abroad.  So far I have climbed a mountain in Spain, Greece, Puerto Rico, an extinct volcano in Iceland, and some very tall hills in Italy.  It would have been extremely unusual if I hadn’t climbed a mountain in Japan. Fortunately Jane was all in favor of taking plenty of breaks on our way to the top.  The shrine was also designed with lots of resting places.  Every time we reached a place where the path leveled off, there were smaller shrines and restaurants.  I am not entirely sure how the mountainside restaurants get their supplies.  Maybe there are back roads that we couldn’t see.
A tunnel of torii
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
The climb is supposed to take between 2-3 hours and has a mix of fairly level paths, like the one in the picture to the left, and some places where they had to add stairs to make it more accessible.

About half way up the mountain we found a place selling ice cream and decided we would reward ourselves with it on the way back down the mountain.  The spot seemed to be the stopping place for a lot of people, because after we reached that point there were a lot fewer tourists.

 Vending Machine and a Slight Cultural Difference

Something I appreciated about Japan was the vast amount of vending machines.  Every single resting place on Mt. Inari had a vending machine like the one pictured.  As we got higher, vending machines got more and more pricey.

Interestingly, it is considered impolite to drink a beverage while walking.  It’s fine to drink while standing or sitting out in public, but you cannot drink while walking.  It was a small thing, but this little cultural difference was the one that blew my mind the most and that I half-complained about throughout the trip.

Small torii and some kitsune
At the top
  Made it!

It took us at least two hours, but at last we made it to the top!  There was even a sign to reassure us that we had made it.  Apparently some people don’t actually believe they are at the top because a note at the bottom of the sign (in Japanese) explained that it really was the top of the mountain and that there was no need to ask inside the restaurant.

The mountain top shrine

Slightly Lost

On our way down the mountain, we rewarded ourselves with ice cream.  We then took a different path than the one that brought us up and found ourselves outside of Fushimi Inari in a neighborhood with a lot of Buddhist shrines.

We eventually found a small lake and then rediscovered the entrance to Fushimi Inari.  It was about dinner time by then so we decided it was time to head back to our hotel in Osaka and call the day a success!

Neighborhood Buddhist shrine

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