So let’s start with this… no visit to Kyoto is complete without a trip to Fushimi Inari Shrine. It is simply the most amazing shrine in all of Japan, definitely #1 on my list. I visited Fushimi Inari Shrine back in 2013, on our first trip to Mainland Japan. This time around I told myself before arriving “there’s no need to take tons of photos… you already have good ones” … and this blogpost is proof that I did not listen to myself! HA! It really is impossible to go to this magical place and not take photos.
Anyways, this time around my friend Katie and I made a big effort to arrive first thing in the morning. Why? Because it is the most popular shrine and gets incredibly busy!! We left Osaka (where we were staying) at 6AM and arrived at the shrine right before 7AM. The sun was still coming up and it was completely empty, besides a few other people!!! We trekked all the way to the top of the mountain (something my husband and I weren’t able to do previously).
The Shinto shrine was put in place on a mountain top, in order to worship Inari Ōkami, the God of rice. According to Wikipedia it is also considered the “God of foxes, of fertility, tea and sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal kami (gods) of Shinto”. There are fox statues scattered throughout the shrine, because they are thought to be messengers. The orange torii’s are traditional Japanese Shinto gates, which mark a transition from the mundane to the sacred. At Fushimi and other Inari Shrines there are thousands of torii’s that have been donated by those who have been successful in business, as a way to show gratitude. Along the main path of Fushimi Inari Shrine there are 10,000 torii gates, but seriously it looks like there are a million throughout the mountain!!
These are ema, wooden plaques for people to leave their prayers or wishes to the gods. Wish I had bought that origami crane one, because it’s soo cute! At the bottom there are senbazuru, groups of 1,000 paper cranes held together by strings. It is believed that the person who completes one will get a wish granted by the gods.
This is pretty much the top of Mt. Inari, just a ton of more shrines. We ended up spending over 2 hours at Fushimi Inari Shrine!! I’m glad we went early and didn’t feel rushed, plus can we talk about the amazing light? I’m also happy we went all the way up… but to be honest the top was disappointing, lol! So if you’re short for time, go up to the viewpoint and then turn back down. You’re not missing out on anything big. We did walk down a different path and found a few corners with some interesting shrines.
This shrine specifically was for the God of Matchmaking. After praying at the shrine, you buy these dolls which represent the husband, wife and attendant. You bring them home, enshrine them and once your wish comes true you bring it back to the shrine or keep them. These are some of the ones that were returned.
According to a sign, this small garden lantern holds the deity of back pain. Everyone that lived in the house where it was originally located suffered from a mysterious back pain and were unable to stand. After advice from a priest, it was unearthed and offered to this shrine because it had the name of it inscribed, but hidden under the earth. People worship it and ask the deity to relieve their pain. I really was not expecting that crazy story when I stopped to read that paper!! Ha!
To be honest it wasn’t super busy around 9AM… as seen above. But I still recommend going around 7AM, because it was desolate when we arrived. The food stalls were starting to open when we made it back to the entrance, so we got a snack for the walk to the train station.
Off to Arashiyama we went!