31 May Day 2: (part 1) Morning at Fushimi Inari Shrine
In the morning we walked to Kiyomizu Gojo station and took the Keihan main line to Fushimi inari station. A short walk brought us to an entrance of Fushimi Inari Taisha. The shrine is the most important of all dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. There are several fox statues throughout the grounds, as foxes are thought to be the gods messengers. Fushimi Inari Taisha is famous for its thousands of bright orange Torii gates. All of the gates have been donated and each gate features the name of the individual or company on the back that donated it. While there we saw some of the gates being re-painted.
There is a hiking trail that takes you to the summit of Mount Inari. The trail leads through wooded forest and you pass through torii gate after torii gate along the way. At the start of the hike the gates are spaced close together. They create scenes of orange tunnels, a popular image often shown from Fushimi Inari Taisha. It truly is magical seeing all these Torii gates with your own eyes. I actually found it quite over whelming and it still remains a favourite memory of mine. Further along the trail the gates are more spread out and the bright orange stands out amongst the green forest. Every now and then there would be an older faded gate and there were also some gates made from stone.
The hike varied from dirt and gravel paths to concrete and large steep steps. Feeling very unfit, I puffed along. There were several elderly people with hiking sticks putting me to shame. I considered turning back once we reached the half way view-point, but toughened up and soldiered on. I was carrying the backpack while Tim had our toddler strapped onto his front, who slept through most of the trail. At one point we passed a young man on his way down who spoke with a European accent, he seemed as worn out as me and told Tim he thought he was crazy for doing it carrying a baby.
We reached the summit and found a rather foggy view. It didn’t disappoint us as the view wasn’t what we had come for. We made our way back down with shaking legs and noticed there were a lot more people on the trail. As we got further down, we were having to keep to the side, due to the amount of people now making their way up. I am glad we visited early in the morning as it was getting quite busy by the time we finished the loop trail. There were a lot more people all around the grounds than there were when we had arrived.
Ema are wooden plaques that can be found at shrines all over Japan and also some temples. People purchase them from the shrine, write their prayers onto the Ema and then hang it up in hopes the gods will grant their wish. The Ema at Fushimi Inari were in the shape of fox heads. They had space on the back for people to write their prayers as well as be creative and draw the face on the front.
Back at the bottom, we took Fletcher out of the carrier so he could stretch his legs and play in the stones. We could have taken him anywhere and he would have been happy as long as there were stones to play with. It must be a universal thing that all kids like as we seen several children playing in stones during our Japan trip. While he was playing, many Japanese people tried to talk and play with him and wanted photo’s with him. He was too shy and overwhelmed by his sudden celebrity status.
I spotted this little girl and made Tim take a photo. I thought she was super cute dressed up in her Kimono. It matched the colours of the shrine. She was carrying a balloon, so perhaps it was a special occasion.
We really enjoyed visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha. I’m so glad we kept going and finished the entire trail, it was definitely worth it. I bought a small wooden Torii gate from one of the stalls to take home as a souvenir. I probably could have gotten one from any store, but I felt it had more meaning when buying it from Fushimi Inari after seeing so many of the wonderful orange Torii there.
We took the train and went back to the hotel so we could pick up our stroller. Getting some lunch from the Konbini (convenience store) along our way, before heading to Nara for the afternoon.