One of those ‘must see’ sights in Kyoto is the walk (or hike) that takes in The Fushimi Inari Shrine Complex (伏見稲荷大社). This is a long and winding walkway that follows paths up and around the hill/mountain called Inariyama and If you plan on doing it all in summer then it’s best to go early morning as, although it’s not steep, the walk is long and undulating.
To get there take one of the frequent trains from Kyoto station to Inari Station on the JR Nara Line. The Stop is 2nd out from Kyoto and takes minutes.
Pretty much opposite the station exit & the start is at the bottom of the Large hill/mountain that overlooks Kyoto called “Inariyama”. The entrance is fairly obvious – just look for the giant red Torii gates that form the entrance to the main Shrine at the Romon Gate.
Inari is the Shinto God of Rice, Sake, and generally business prosperity, hence this god is revered by business-folk and storekeepers. An interesting comparison in the Hindu pantheon would be the elephant god Ganesh who you find in any Indian shops and businesses.
Make an offering at the main shrine then start walking uphill… through the first Torii gate which is guarded left and right, by Kitsune, the fox and messenger of Inari.
These are not the only steps ….. get used to seeing them, however much of the steeper elements are offset by long stretches of very gently sloping pathways.
Each red wooden gate is donated by a business and is made in the hope of ensuring prosperity and success for the enterprise.
In summer months it’s hot and humid so if you start early(wish) – say before 9.00am the air is likely to be cooler and there is much shade provided by the trees and torii gates themselves. There are thousands of them which leads to their name ‘senbon’ Torii – which literally means a “thousand’ Torii.
Which way to go?…. actually it doesn’t matter …both paths lead to the top of the mountain.
Halfway to the top there’s a little resting area and a collection of small cafes and eating places. There is also a great view over Kyoto – just hope for a clear day. It’s a good idea to take a bottle of your own water with you…… then you don’t have to really on the next rest-stop.
Resting here by the lake is not a great idea in summer as there are many mosquitoes lurking and waiting to pounce. You can quickly lose the mozzies by moving onwards and upwards.
Kitsune fountain – the fox is Inari’s messenger and wears a red ‘bib’ to ward off bad spirits that may come from the East. There are plenty of smaller statutes that feature the fox dotted around the shrine complex – some hold keys in their mouths to indicate a key to the Granary or Rice Store.
It’s important to purify your hands and before making an offering at a shrine – there are many little troughs filled with water and ladles are provided for the ritual.
One thing pictures don’t provide is sound…. and the Cicadas are LOUD – something which really adds to the atmosphere of the place.
The higher up, you get the less folk there are and the more peaceful and serene it becomes.
It’s all within woodland so the many Torii gates provide a home for the local beasties…
A lot of welcome shade is provided by the trees and the Torii gates themselves, but beware the humidity in summer – and although it is a gentle enough walk around the mountain and shrine it can certainly take it out of you.
At the bottom of the mountain again and yet more Kitsune – who i have to say is a handsome beast. Not sure what this cat was doing at the bottom of the hill though…..
This cat was so very still, from a distance i thought it might be made of stone, but it was simply dozing…. and drooling a little in the heat.
Inari station is on the JR Nara line and trains are easy to catch from kyoto Station. The journey time to Inari is abut 5 minutes so really there’s no excuse not to go and walk at least a little way up the mountain….even if you don’t do the whole thing.
I went at about 7.30am in July and the heat & humidity were manageable. This early(ish) hour also meant the lower pathways were less crowded and process was easier. I strolled to the top and down before 9.00am and i took a fair time taking taking pictures and generally dawdling.