This is the story of my first time visiting Fushimi Inari with my best friends.
We woke up early today because we wanted to join a day tour by JTB. After an hour of searching and walking up and down the same road, we finally found the meeting point, but unfortunately the tour had already been fully booked the day before (lesson learned). I was upset and hungry, and it wasn’t even 8 in the morning yet. I guess Yin could see my disappointment, because she proclaimed herself our tour guide, and with a lonely planet book and a bag filled with snacks to keep us energized, she promised to give us a better tour than the one we had missed. Okay Yin, bring it on..
Her first choice was Fushimi Inari Shrine, a 5 minute train ride from Kyoto station, located on the opposite of Inari station. It was a clear autumn morning, and the combination of bright blue sky, white clouds and the huge torii gate in front the temple entrance looked like a painting. There were a plenty of people when we walked through the main entrance, but it wasn’t crowded.
Fushimi is a shrine dedicated to the God of rice, who gives wealth and success to those devoted to him (or her? I am not sure). Fox, as the messenger, can be found almost everywhere in the shrine. This famous temple is the head of Inari temples all over Japan, and it brings millions of visitors throughout the year.
Fushimi Inari is known for the thousand torii gates. These gates, mostly made of wood and painted orange (although we did see other types) were a form of donation from individuals, families or companies. Their names were engraved on them, and the girls read them to me occasionally if they found something interesting enough to share. It costs up to or more than a million Yen to donate a torii gate, but you can also get a miniature one for 800 Yen. While walking through the endless tunnel of these magnificent orange structures, I had the feeling that I have been here before. Deja vu? Hahahaha.. Apparently not. The memory came from one of my favorite movies, when a young girl runs through the place. All this time, I thought it was a made up place, so ignorant of me..
“At the temple, there is a poem called “Loss” carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read Loss, only feel it.” – Memories of Geisha.
At the end of the tunnel, there is a sub shrine where you can write your wishes on a fox shaped prayer board. Yin wrote hers in Chinese, so I don’t know what she wished for. My guess is to travel more with awesome friends like us? (waiting for her comment on this). We also bought a safe delivery charm for Fia from here as a souvenir. Hope she likes it.
We walked along an uphill path, and I couldn’t help but imagine that the place would be an awesome place to take pre-wedding pictures. Along the path, we saw a few small shrines and a teahouse where we rested. Tired of walking, I realized that we were actually walking on a hiking path of Mount Inari. I begged to girls to go back, my love for hiking begins and ends with a book by Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
I really liked this shrine, so much so that I bought my fridge-magnet-souvenir-for-each-place-I-have-travelled-to from here. This one was (what else?) a torii gate. Speaking of shopping, there was a yukata stall near the main shrine, and they sold the nicest looking yukatas compared to those I have seen elsewhere in Japan. So if you are planning to get one, go check out this stall.
The Fushimi Inari shrine is also one of Japan’s UNESCO heritage places, like Koyasan. Next time I travel, I am going to do my research on other UNESCO heritage places and make sure to put them on my itinerary.