Pass under the thousands of vermillion gates (senbon torii), and enter the world of Mt. Inari, where the Inari Deity came to earth. We recommend the amount of exercise this 4 km hike provides, but if you want full value you may find touring the entire mountain to be the best use of your trip to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
The main shrine of Fushimi Inari has been designated as an important cultural asset by the government. It is rather a large building for a shrine. The fine metalwork on the decorative gable pendants and the rafter-end covers are representative of the Azuchi-Momoyama period whose structures and motifs are bold and dynamic while elegant.
Symbolic not only of the Fushimi area but also of Kyoto, these torii gates line the way from the inner shrine on Inariyama Mountain all along the path to the shrine. It was believed that persons that made offerings of torii gates would have their prayers answered. This custom originates from the homonym toru (come true/pass through). Another custom, replacing your torii gate with a bigger one every time a prayer was answered, took hold. Images of the gates are impressive, but actually standing among them can feel otherworldly.
After the Senbon Torii (thousand torii gates) is the Okusha Hohaisho in Myobu (fox court lady) Valley backed by Inariyama Sangamine (Three Ridges of Inariyama Mountain). The area is also known as Okuno-In (the innermost shrine), and was built to pray to distant mountain deities. The outer shrine, the main shrine and the torii gate of Inari Okami Deity are located in a straight line to facilitate this. The main shrine was built during the Muromachi period (around 1500 A.D.)
The grounds of Fushimi Inari Shrine are expansive. It takes time to reach the top of the hill and visit every spot. Don't miss Oku-sha, the inner shrine just after the thousand torii gates. Here, you can try lifting an omokaru-ishi, (heavy/light stones). First, pray in front of the lanterns. Then, place a stone on the top. It is said that your prayer will come true if you feel the stone is lighter than expected. If you feel it is heavier, your prayer will not be answered.
Yotsu-tsuji, the intersection at the approach of Fushimi Inari Shrine, has a superb view. In early summer, refreshing breezes pass through the verdant young foliage. In autumn, colored leaves and torii gates complete the picture. When you climb up the approach from the foot of the hill, you can see a mound and a spooky dense forest. Have no fear, these are also part of the shrine. Have a little break at the intersection before you climb toward the summit of the hill!
Kojin-mine, a peak a little farther on from Yotsu-tsuji, is one of the most highly recommended spots on the Inariyama hiking course. Located behind Tanaka-sha Shrine, it provides a much better view of Kyoto than Yotsu-tsuji. From this little-known vantage point, you can enjoy a great view to its fullest. Wear suitable shoes and walk about an hour from the foothills.
Ichinomine, 233 meters above sea level, is the highest summit of Inariyama Mountain. This summit was worshipped as the deity Suehiro Okami long before people built Oyazuka (donated stone monuments engraved with deity's names). The inscription of "Suehiro-sha" on the back of the Oyazuka is proof. If you go beyond the right side of the shrine, you will find a place to draw an omikuji fortune paper by yourself to find your fortune. The omikuji here have a reputation for high accuracy. This alone may be worth the 40 minute walk to get here.
Mitsurugi-sha, one of the Fushimi Inari Shrines, is located just before the summit of the hill, enshrining Tamayorihime no Mikoto, the Kyoto Shimogamo Shrine deity. Beside the shrine sits a rock as large as a car, called "Kaminari Iwa (or Mitsurugi ishi)." It got this name as it was struck by lightening again and again in the old days. Speaking of thunder, Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto enshrines a thunder deity called Kamowake Ikazuchi no Okami, whose mother is Tamayorihime no Mikoto. The legend says that the deity of thunder comes here to see his mother. The mythical world comes alive on this spot!
This shrine on Inariyama Mountain is located between Yotsu-tsuji and Ichinomine. As its name "Yakuriki" (medicinal powers) indicates, it is believed to have divine favor for medicines and health problems. Nearby you find Oseki Okami (deity of coughing) enshrined, where Kabuki actors pay a visit to pray. There is also an unusual stone statue of a fox parent and child. A waterfall called "Yakuriki-taki" is nearby. Some people do ritual devotions under the waterfall. These magical waters can be drawn up with a hand pump. You may find yourself fully energized after spending time at this spot.
This shrine on the way to Mitsu-tsuji from Yashimagaike Pond features a pair of guardian frogs as grand as any pair of typical guardian dogs. Fushimi Inari is famous for fox messengers from the Gods, but don't miss these frogs. Suehiro Okami are well worth seeing. Have a look at them from the back to find small frogs on their backs. In the middle of the Torii, you will see an offertory box called "Fuku-kaeru" (happiness returns) with a pun on kaeru, meaning both "frog" and "return."
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