I’ve been excited to go to this place since I got to Japan and even more so when I was reassured by a friend who came on this same program last year that it was amazing. Fushimi Inari is quite possibly the most famous of all sites in Kyoto. It’s gotta be true if Tripadvisor says so. I got my chance last week Friday and went alone to the shrine after classes let out. It took me a while to get there as I was lost, but I finally made it around 2:30 in the afternoon.
So what is this place and why is it so important? Fushimi Inari is a Shinto shrine and not just any shinto shrine, but the main shrine of the Inari kami(gods/spirits). These gods and spirits symbolize prosperity and success. Japanese religion in general and prayer to Inari particularly is based on a term called Genze Riyaku 現世利益. It means practical benefits in this lifetime. In many Shinto shrines there are ways to see this. One way is through ema cards in which people write their wishes for success, happiness, peace, and other things and hope the gods answer their prayers.
People pray at several points up to the top. In my case, I partook at the bottom shown on the picture to the right and at the top when I reached it. Praying consists usually of four to five steps here. First, a purification ritual in which water is drawn from a fountain with the use of a ladle. With the ladle, you cleanse the left hand with the water taken and then your right hand. You must make sure to have water left over to raise to your mouth which you drink and then spit beside the purification fountain. After this, you throw a coin into the offering hall and ring a bell. Once it is rung, you bow deeply twice and then clap your hands in succession twice and pray, then bow once more.
Once I got through the ritual, I went on my way up the mountain. It took me maybe an hour and half to climb to the top as I stopped to take photos often. The most amazing parts to me of the shrine were definitely the torii laden paths that followed the path up. Some of these had characters marking when they were built and for whom. You can actually buy them and it’s a form of genze riyaku in the hope that buying one will bestow you worldly success. Though I couldn’t read and interpret most of them, some were definitely bought by companies and only have been there a mere 50 years in comparison to how long the shrine has existed which is 1200+ years.
As I said, the trek up was long. My body was tired around the halfway point. I’ve never really hiked before and I’m so used to living in low elevation places that I felt like I was running out of oxygen at one point, but that just may have been my nerves. Probably. I think… While the bottom is crowded, the upper parts are sparse, but filled with gift shops and places to rest as you make your way up. Around the 80–85% point I came upon this marvelous view.
The picture above doesn’t really do what I saw justice. Therefore, if you come to Japan and particularly Kyoto, you need to come here because it is absolutely beautiful.
Going down the mountain, I took a different path that led to an area with a pond, what looked to be a graveyard, and more religious imagery in the form of Buddhist symbols. Particularly, this image of Buddha shown in the picture to your left. It was pretty close to the residential area that connects to Fushimi Inari. It’s amazing to think that people can enjoy this everyday. Yet, for people who live here this is a regular part of their lives which is amazing as well.
Hopefully, I’ve given you an idea of what this place is about and you enjoyed my post. If you want to see all the pictures I took, just look at my flickr photostream below.
Till next time,