Fushimi Inari Shrine

Kon’nichiwa! Welcome to the first of what I hope to be many travel posts.

First we’re starting of with my #1 memorable experience from Japan – Fushimi Inari Shrine & hike.

Last year, I traveled to Japan to compete at the IPF Bench Worlds 2019. After the competition, Jared and I traveled around the main island of Japan. For me, Fushimi Inari was probably my number one experience of whole trip!

The bright orange Torii gates are on the entire 4km walk, with only small gaps present. The gates are what the shrine is mostly known for – if you Google Kyoto, you’ll most likely get an image similar.

We’d heard a lot of things about the shrine walk being super popular (and we could see why during the walk!) so decided to get up super early, as recomended by a friend who went a few days before us.

Fushimi Inari is a Shinto Shrine located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto. We based ourselves in the main city of Kyoto, and woke up at approx 6am to catch a train to Fushimi-ku. Thankfully, the train station is opposite the shrine so we didn’t need to travel too far!

I was going to write a bit of the history, however you can find it scattered around the internet; So I will list the things I found interesting

  • Fushimi Inari was created to enshrine the gods (or kami) of rice and sake (Inari)
  • The foxes scattered around are thought to be messengers of the Inari gods
  • There are 30,000 Inari shrines across the country, Fushimi inari is the headquaters
  • The first structures of the shrine were built in 711! They were however not built on site, instead they were built Southwester Kyoto. They were moved to this site in 816
  • The main shrine itself was built in 1499
  • Something that I thought was interesting is that on the walk, there are many vending machines and cafes and souvenir shops. It kind of took away from the experience of walking through a historical shrine

what is important to note (I think) is that there are 10,000 (yes, that’s right!) Torii gates along the 4km~ path. These gates have been donated by businesses, and on the back (or front depending what direction you’re walking!) of most of them, there are messages (or perhaps the business’ name? I don’t actually know)

I am unsure if they are buiness names, proverbs or quotes of some kind.

Originally when we were looking into Fushimi Inari, I was very hesitant, it wasn’t until the day before we went that I decided “we’ll only be here once, we should do it!”

So as I said, we left pretty early from Kyoto to beat the late risers, and were so lucky that we got there before almost anyone else, none of the photos I have include photos of other people – except for the ones I took to showcase how busy it got when we got back down the mountain.

The main shrine – I don’t think we went inside

There are small shrines scattered throughout the walk, I really wish I could speak Japanese, as I really wanted to know what they represented. A lot of the shrines (if not all?) had what I would have called grave stones. I wonder if people are burried there? Or a memorial site? Perhaps all of the shrines / “grave stone” type things I saw were just to the kami inari?

Turns out I didn’t get much photos of the small shrines etc. This is really all I have!

If you’re short on time, or not very fit, there is a half way point which has a great view to Kyoto. However – even though I was incredibly unfit, we carried on up to complete the whole thing “when in Rome!” right?

The half way point has this view of Kyoto. My camera isn’t the best – clearly.

So we kept going – as the steps got steeper, I had to stop quite a few times! Something which wouldn’t be possible if we went there with the normal tourist crowd, as apprently the line up the mountain is person to person (as opposed to bumper to bumper) one line going up and one going down and everyone just keeps walking – so you can’t stop!

I stood like this a few times. Look at that red face!

I’m quite dissapointed…. looking through all the photos we have, I have nothing from the top! The top of the walk was amazing. It was filled with 1000s of small (what I assume) shrines. Many had numbers on them, and I think when the shops were open, you could get a piece of paper which said what each shrine was – but we were there so early none of the shops on the walk up or down were open.

I went to Google images to see if I could find some images of the top of the walk – it turns out no one really goes past the mid point. But I’m telling you! You need to do it! It’s worth it to soak up that history! I’m not a very fit person, but I managed it. 🙂

I’m so glad I decided to give this walk a try, and not give up on it at the half way point. It’s so beautiful to walk and see the shrines, feel the history of the place, and even more so when it’s peaceful and noone else is around!

All in all, 10/10. I would probably even do this again! The walk is beautiful, through some amazing forest. The Torii gates are magical, something about them just makes me smile, the cute foxes scattered around, too! Plus, it’s free!

Comment below what your favorite travel destination is! Mine has so far been Japan, obviosuly with Fushimi Inari being #1 attraction for me. 🙂