Visiting shrines, hiking (and losing some calories in the process!), exploring bamboo and pine tree forests, passing through thousands of torii gates, enjoying the overlooking view of the city with a beautiful sunset—everything you need to enjoy as a tourist in Kyoto is in Mt. Inari.
This mountain has many shrines, with Fushimi Inari Taisha being the most famous, as you go up. If you’re planning to visit during the peak season, expect lots of people. Lots and lots of them. It’ll be difficult to take decent photos and a short five-minute walk to the shrine could become 10 or 15 because of the slow walking crowd.
Trust me. I already learned my lesson from last year’s visit, but since our trip was dependent on an event, we had to fly to Japan during the Golden Week. While this is the case, it didn’t stop us from climbing the peak.
It’s Good to be Back
Last year, we only stayed in Fushimi Inari for less than an hour. It was a fast, short visit because we had many delays due to the bad weather. Now, we’ve dedicated an entire afternoon to explore it and thankfully, the weather was good.
Our first stop was, of course, the food stalls. I bought at the first stall I saw with the least crowd and got a tofu steak for 4oo yen! (The tofu in the photo above is not mine. My order had no bonito flakes—and I’d like to thank my Nihongo for not failing me—because I’m allergic.) Normally, you shouldn’t be eating while walking, but some still did because it’s difficult to find a place to stay without being bumped by other people. OTL
After we filled our empty stomachs, it’s time for the second hike of the day! Unlike Hokoku-byo, this one’s more challenging to climb because it’s higher and has more crowd.
The Great Escape
As we reached the main shrine, we reminisced a little and then moved forward to follow wherever the torii gates will lead us. It was a blessing in disguise that we hated the crowd because we saw an escape—a small sign that’s pointing towards a mountain path. It was easy to miss, but we just want to get out so we took a right turn without a second thought.
We thought we were taking a shortcut, but it was a longer and more challenging hike to the mountain peak. Not that I’m complaining! The nature trail was surprisingly a peaceful experience. A few minutes after we escaped the crowd, we saw Fushimi Kandakara Shrine (伏見神宝神社). It took me a while to know the name of this place. It’s not that known. In fact, you only see a few search results on Google.
The Bamboo and Pine Tree Forest
As you leave Fushimi Kandakara, you will be welcomed by a long stretch of bamboo and pine trees. They’re so close, you can touch them. I saw people carving their names in one of the bamboos and I find that extremely rude. (><)
The bamboos weren’t as tall as the ones in Arashiyama’s Bamboo Grove, but if you’re going to make me choose, I prefer this bamboo forest. In Arashiyama, you can’t find peace because many people and jinriksha (<– I wrote this article. ww) were passing by.
After a 30-minute walk, we feel as if we’re not in Japan—in a popular tourist place to boot. It’s oddly satisfying that there are no people around. This is the peace and quiet I’ve been looking for.
The pine trees are so tall, I look like an ant beside them. (See below photo for reference.)
The Residential Area
We were surprised to see houses on top of the mountain (and there was one that’s literally beside a cemetery!). It’s peaceful and has a good view of Kyoto. Not to mention that there are cats everywhere.
When we saw this sign that says “15 minutes” to Fushimi Inari Taisha, we were kinda confused because it took us more than that. We expected that the 15 minutes to the mountain top will be longer, too.
We continued walking and saw many crows. It was creepy because we were about to cross a lightly dimmed place. Huhu. We didn’t take any more photos until we’ve reached another path of staircases because it’s just houses and a cemetery. We wouldn’t want to invade their privacy.
Our hike was this high up and we can’t even see the foot of the mountain nor a view of the city. When we saw the torii gates again, we rejoiced because it means we’re back on track and almost at the peak!
Mountain Peak and Yotsu-tsuji Intersection
We finally made it to the top! There’s a shrine where you can offer your prayers and a bit of donation.
Tip: If you’re planning to climb the peak, it’s best to bring your drinks or buy while you’re still at the foot of the mountain. The prices in each vending machine increases as you go up. You’ll feel cheated if you didn’t know. ww
As you go down to the Yotsu-tsuji Intersection, you’ll see many shops offering food, drinks, charms, and souvenirs. It’s good to drop by when you’re extremely tired.
As expected, it was crowded in the area that it was difficult to take a panoramic shot. Nonetheless, you’ll appreciate the overlooking view of Kyoto and the sunset.
Our visit to Mt. Inari was so surreal that we didn’t want this trip to end. I’ll definitely go back and try the other routes. There are still many places to visit in this scenic mountain after all.
Have you tried hiking to the mountain peak, too? Tell me and let’s share our stories!