The Fushimi Inari Shrine is probably the most magical place we visited in Kyoto…
Inari shrines are without a doubt my favorite; I love the big, bright orange torii and the cute fox statues, so I knew I was going to love the Fushimi Inari Shrine before I’d even seen it.
Inari is the Shinto god of rice, among other things (agriculture, fertility, and Sake to name a few) and is represented by the fox.
In Japanese mythology, the fox’s favorite foods are tofu and udon, which also happen to be two of my favorites! Just another reason to love Inari shrines…
This central pavilion was packed with offerings including huge bottles of Sake, crates of beer, ramen, and stacks of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Prayer cards and rainbow-colored origami chains.
The torii lead up to the top of the sacred Inari Mountain on a series of winding trails, with tons of big and small shrines along the way. We spent four hours hiking in this place!
The torii are purchased for $400 up to one million smackaroos and donated to the shrine; some are brand new and some are so old there’s nothing left but a pile of decomposing wood.
We started our hike pretty late in the afternoon, because I had NO IDEA how massive the Shrine’s grounds actually were. Little did I know we’d still be walking late into the night…
Another surprise I wasn’t expecting: cats! The Shrine is FILLED with feral cats! Not mangy, hissy feral cats, but super soft and sweet ones. Japanese cats are also half the size of normal cats; they are the cutest!
There are actually loads of tiny bowls filled with kitty kibble lining the torii trails; I have no idea how many cats inhabit the mountain, but it’s gotta be a lot.
Cat stairs next to human stairs?
These little mossy shrines were my favorite; the Inari Mountain is an ancient place, and you can really feel it in areas like these.
Spot the cat!
Another feline friend.
People actually live on the Inari Mountain, and act as caretakers for the smaller shrines; some have little shops and restaurants, too! They were all closing up as we hiked past, though.
Hiking higher and higher!
The top of the mountain! I wish there was something more impressive here; if I did the hike again, I’d definitely stop at the small, mossy shrines.
We decided we didn’t want to go back down the mountain the same way we’d come up, and chose an alternative route instead. Biiiiig mistake!
It was starting to get dark, we hadn’t had any dinner before starting our hike, there didn’t seem to be any other people on the trail, and my freakin’ knee gave out!
We trudged on anyways; downhill has to be a good sign, right?
The beatific and spiritual atmosphere of this forest is indescribable. I half expected to see little Princess Mononoke bobble-head forest spirits sitting up in the trees.
A super old, mossy shrine nestled somewhere off the beaten path. By this point we were completely lost, and ended up following a tiny stream down to someone’s house and garden, so we had to head ALLLL the way up the hill again, retracing our path until we saw those distinctive torii gates glowing in the darkness.
It was pretty creepy being out in these unfamiliar woods in the dark; there were a lot of strange noises going on all around us, and hardly any other people.
At least we could always count on a wandering cat to keep us company. As soon as it got dark, the number of cats quadrupled, and they all became very vocal.
Luckily there were plenty of lanterns to guide us back down to the base of the mountain, and once I got over the thought that we were going to have to spend the night lost in the woods, I actually enjoyed the eeriness of the mossy old shrines at night.
A guiding light.
This little pagoda houses a huge, ornate sculpture of a white horse with a foal. I wish I knew more about it, but I don’t!
You can’t see it in the picture, but there was a big carrot on the ground in front of the horse. Hee!
Would I visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine again? ABSOLUTELY. I’d just eat a huge meal beforehand, and maybe bring a knee brace, too. There is definitely a reason why this mountain is sacred, and has been since ancient times; it has such an ethereal quality to it I can’t even describe, you’ll just have to visit it for yourself! And bring some kitty kibble, too!