Inari Mountain – A rough guide to the peak

Inari Mountain – A rough guide to the peak

Yet again, its been a while since my last post. I thought I’d just get straight to the point with this one; I’m going to show you one of my favourite places in Japan; Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Now, I do not like Kyoto. The streets are always way too busy, tourist attractions are crowded and the locals aren’t exactly hiding how unhappy they are with the overcrowding situation. From my experience on numerous occasions, Kyotoites are some of the rudest people I’ve met in Japan. Although Riku spent 7 years in Kyoto for university, he’s from Kobe, so he’s not as bad (love you!).
Even though I am not a fan of Kyoto, I am in love with Fushimi Inari Taisha!

O-Inari Sama A.K.A The Fox God


Fushimi Inari Taisha is a Shinto Shrine that is dedicated to the fox god; O-Inari Sama. It is the head of the Inari shrines in Japan and just like the rest, you can find many statues of Inari foxes scattered around the shrine.

photo of a japanese fox statue
An Inari fox statue sporting a red bib

Inari is the Shinto god of rice and good harvest. Shinto followers believe that foxes are the messengers for the god, Inari.
The fox statues are often found in pairs, representing male and female, seated with its tail held vertical.
You can find the fox statue wearing red bibs known as “Yodarekake”. These are gifted to the foxes by Shinto followers.

a lot of japanese red shrine gates known as torii gates

Gateways to the Gods


Fushimi Inari Taisha is most famous for the “Senbon Torii” which is literally the thousands of scarlet red torii gates that line the (multiple) routes to the summit of the mountain. Each gate is a donation that has been made by individuals or companies to the Inari God. A small gate will cost around 400,000yen (about £3250) and a large one costs around 10,00000 (£7500). Due to the sheer amount of gates lining the mountain, one can only imagine how rich the Inari god is (and where he/she spends their money).

Two Journeys


I’ve been to Fushimi Inari Taisha twice in the most recent months (but many more times over the last two years). Once with my cousin when she came to visit me towards the end of 2018’s killer summer and then a second time when my friend stopped by Japan on her travels in the East.

Both times I woke up at 5 am to get to the mountain before the hoards of photo-eager tourists could even begin to think about waking up.

Fushimi Inari: The Climb


The mountain isn’t a large one, standing at only 233 metres, it is pretty much a joke to even call it a hill. (Pen Y Fan in the Brecon beacons stands at 886 metres and that is barely even scratching the surface of official mountain height.)

Though the height of the mountain may be a little on the small size, the hike is no laughing matter. The trails wind their way up and through the forest on the slopes on Inari Mountain, and it takes about 2-3 hours to complete a course up and down.

During the hike you can stop by a multitude of smaller shrines and snap over a million photos of torii gates (especially when you’re trying to get that “no people” photo).

Every now and then you may come across an old restaurant that serves local foods such as Inari Zushi, a special fried tofu that has pointed corners that resemble foxes ears. Despite the high amounts of hiking traffic on the mountain, these restaurants rarely have anyone inside. I imagine that one day these restaurants won’t exist anymore.

After a good 45 minute climb you will reach a clearing known as Yotsu-tsuji where a great view of Kyoto can be enjoyed on a clear day.

Two girls smiling and sitting with a japanese cityscape behind them
Me and My cousin (and best friend) half way up Mount Inari

When the weather is good you can see all the way across the stretch of Kyoto City, whilst enjoying some “Kaki-Gori” (Japanese snow cones) or some Kitsune Udon.

WARNING:


In the summer beware of Suzumebachi (Japanese killer hornets) that seem to patrol the area, as well as other nasty critters, not mentioning names… (Mukade).

Fushimi Inari: The Peak


After the Yotsu-tsuji Intersection the trail splits into 3. To reach the summit you will need to choose one of the paths. I have always used the one on the right as thats what seems to be signposted. However, you are free to walk in any direction.
From here the path gets more steep and the density of torii gates gradually decrease. (I mean, who REALLY wants to haul that wood all the way up the mountain…) It’s understandable if you wish to descend after the Yostu-tsuji Intersection.

You can reach the summit after about 15 to 20 minutes of ascending. You won’t know its the summit unless you look for the miniscule laminated hand drawn and desk printed sign.
(The first time I reached the summit I completely missed it. There really isn’t much at the peak.)

Fushimi Inari: Now it’s your turn


But if you enjoy Japanese shrines, Shinto deities, and a good hike where you are bound to meet many of the Inari Mountain cats ( a group of feral cats that seem to dwell on the mountain) then you can enjoy the hike on Inari without having the summit as the goal!

girl walks through a lot of japanese shrine gates
Avoid the crowds by catching the earliest train and you’ll find the trails empty for yourselves
fushimi inaris shrine and first gate
The beginning of fushimi Inari’s hike starts at the major shrine.
lots of japanese shrine gates and small stone shrines
A jumble of torii gates and shrines litter the summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

girl standing infront of japanese shrine looking at the camera
How you feel when you reach the “summit”.
a black and white kitten sitting and looking over its left shoulder
One of the many shrine cats that live on the mountain.
red japanese gates and stone shrines
Memorial shrines with torii gate donations lining the summit.
japanese shrine gates and small stone shrines
The contrast between the hues of green, red and stone grey is strong as you go along the hiking route.
a red japanese shrine gate surrounded by a forest
A lone gate standing on an old pathway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a pathway full of red japanese shrine gates
The gates are less dense towards the summit.
instructions for hiking a mountain on yellow paper
Sometimes instructions don’t make complete sense but you can get the gist of it.
a stone dragon sitting over shrine water
When you enter a shrine complex, cleanse yourself by using the temizuya.

 

a girl strokes a cat in a japanese shrine
You can find shrine cats all the way up the mountain.
a black and white kitten sits beneath a shrine
A shrine cat in training.
a girl sits with a black and white cat on her lap and a black cat to her left side.
I sat down and before I knew it I had made kitty friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a ginger cat stands on a shine
“protector of the deities”
a cat sitting amongst stone and wooden shrines
A cat guards the shrine.

 

sign stating that it is the top of Inari mountain
If you’re looking for the mountain peak you will need to find this small handwritten sign.
red japanese shrine gates line a pathway through a green forest
The path to the peak is long but it is worth it.

 

 

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