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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!