So it’s Day 6 of our Japan Adventure. I showed hubby the options for today’s adventure and to my surprise he chose Fushimi Inari. The glossy brochures showed pics of a row of vermillion Torii gates and mentioned that lots of little fox statues guarded the shrine.
So off we headed… and apparently, hundreds (okay maybe thousands) of other tourists had the same idea that day! This is one of the complaints I hear about Japan, but honestly it didn’t bother us a great deal. And, with the exception of Arashiyama, we always grabbed moments where there was no one else around and snapped a few photos before the next wave of tourists. That said, sometimes a few people in the shot makes the photo more interesting.
The Fushimi Inari shrine sits at the foot of Mount Inari which is 233 metres above sea level – remember that figure for later in the blog! Inari is the Shinto god of rice, and foxes are said to be Inari’s messengers hence why there are statues of foxes dotted throughout. The main shrine dates back before 794.
Okay so call us a naïve or perhaps poorly researched… but we took a quick look at a sign that showed a path to the top and thought ‘yeah, let’s do that.’ Now bear in mind neither of us are super fit or healthy.
As I was researching to write this blog I see that the hiking trail (yes hiking trail!), starts at a place called Senbon Torii which translates to “thousands of Torii gates.” Remember the height of that mountain? Starting to see a picture form here?
Along the way there were lots of little shrines, each guarded by foxes, and of course a continuous walkway spanned by Torii gates.
At about half way up (so I discover now!) at Yotsutsuji intersection, we stopped to admire the views over Kyoto through cherry blossoms. Lots of people were stopped here having drinks and enjoying matcha ice creams. We discovered later, most of those people never went any further up the mountain. We soldiered on.
It became a personal photographic challenge for me, how many ways can you photograph a vermillion coloured gate? By the time we were about two-thirds the way to the top, I decided to swap to my 35mm fixed focal length lens and took the rest of my photos using that lens. The lower f-stop made for some lovely pics of foxes and allowed me to pick out elements within the shrines to focus on.
Apparently, the hike to the top takes 2-3 hours; I have no idea how long it took us but seriously we struggled. And in the end, it became a case of “we will conquer this even if it’s the last thing we do!”
We expected there to be something at the top, some kind of reward, an amazing view or a centuries old object to marvel at… but there wasn’t. Just another shrine, lots of red Torii’s, more fox statues and no view at all. A simple sign marking the top is all there was.
Each one of the thousands of Torii gates was donated by an individual or business and the name of the donor is inscribed on the back of the gate. For a mere 400,000 yen for a small sized gate or up to over one million yen for a large gate you too can have your name on a gate. Oh, and in case you are wondering, you won’t find our name on one.
Somehow on the trail down we took a different path and came across a gorgeous little shrine area that was shaded by cherry blossoms and each time the breeze blew delicate pale-pink petals rained down. We sat for a while, enjoyed a snack from our backpack and caught our breath in this little sanctuary.
We made our way back to the train station and for some crazy reason decided to head to Kyoto Tower. And for some other crazy reason we took a train whose nearest stop was about 1km from the tower. Just to clarify, Kyoto Tower is at Kyoto Station, Kyoto’s main train station. Did I mention that we had just walked up a 233m high mountain… hmmm.
Anyhow needless to say I don’t think my heart was in the Kyoto Tower experience, it was kind of “okay I’ve seen it, can I go back to the hotel now?” And let’s face it, the view didn’t have a patch on Osaka’s Umeda Sky Building.
More happy snaps from our Japan adventure
“Let’s do that!” Seemed like a good idea at the time (okay it was a good idea)
The main Torii at the entrance to Fushimi Inari
Me beside the endless row of Torii gates
A side view of those vermillion coloured gates
A top view of the Torii gates – how many ways can you photograph red gates?
Half way up Fushimi Inari – view of Kyoto through cherry blossoms
After several hours of trekking we made it to the top – and this sign was all that welcomed us!
A close up of the little shrine cloaked in cherry blossoms
The view from Kyoto Tower – a gorgeous pagoda in the centre of shot
Read about the rest of my adventure here
DAY 1 – Cherry blossoms at Osaka Castle
DAY 3 – Umeda Sky Building and Dotonbori
DAY 4 – – Kyoto – Pontocho, Gion District & the best pancake ever
DAY 6 – THIS BLOG – Fushimi Inari & Kyoto Tower
DAY 7 – COMING SOON – Nijo Castle