Fushimi Inari Taisha

Saturday, 1st Feb 2020

I accidentally climbed a mountain before breakfast. I was nearing the end of my stay in Kyoto, with so many shrines still to see. Kyoto has a lot of shrines, but Fushimi Inari Taisha is so ancient and famous I had to go, even if everyone else would be thinking the same on a Saturday morning.

The main shrine is dedicated to Inari, a Shinto deity associated with rice, and by extension general prosperity. The shrine has been in operation since the early 8th Century.

Typical of Kyoto, shops and residences are built up unceremoniously close to the shrine, at least on some sides.

Side road to Fushimi Inari Taisha

I wandered up a side road towards the shrine, lined to street food vendors. Food is usually not allowed within shrine grounds, although the tea shops up the mountain seem to be exceptions.

The main shrine was very busy, unsurprising on a Saturday, so this was as close as I got before heading up the mountain.

The mountain is as much an attraction as the main shrine, because its paths are lined by torii gates. Supposedly over a thousand gates go all the way up the mountain and all the way down, with only occasional breaks in the line to make room for more shrines, tea houses, and even more shrines.

It was initially very crowded, but even a small mountain is big, so I got my chance for a selfie.

The torii are donated by business sponsors, so I assume the writing is about them.

There wasn’t really a view from the top, but here’s the view from the tea house where I had brunch. I treated myself to amazake, a fermented rice drink; slightly alcoholic and very sweet. Like the hot chocolate of rice-based food. The tea house was built in a traditional style, with kneeling room only on a raised floor.

It seems to be normal for anyone who wants to establish a shrine to build it near an existing larger shrine or temple. On the way down the mountain I passed a multitude of small Shinto and Buddhist shrines near Fushimi Inari Taisha.

This one caught my interest, because it illustrates a Chinese parable. The three figures are Confucius, Laozi, and Buddha sitting together with a vat of vinegar. Confucius dislikes the sour taste, Buddha drinks with total equanimity, and Laozi enjoys the exciting sensation of vinegar on his tongue. The story is meant to illustrate the outlooks of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, with a bit of a bias towards Taoism.