Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of my favourite shrines in Kyoto. (I feel like I keep repeating myself… but there are just so many to love!). It is visually spectacular, energising and allows you to partake in its beauty whether its a brief interlude you are seeking or a more leisurely commune with nature. Visitors short on time can stroll under the first section of the vermillion torii for a snapshot of the whole experience but those with time on their side and looking for some exercise and peace can climb much further up into the mountain.
Fushimi Inari – the head shrine of Inari (god of business) is particularly interesting to me because it is THE place that rice farmers and sake makers travel to from all over Japan to pray for good crops – rice being a highly important food crop and pretty much the original “business” of Japan.
Kitsune (fox messengers to the gods) guard the shrine with a rice plant stem in their mouths.
Here’s a link to the Fushimi Inari site for details ( you will need to use google translate but there is loads of info in English on local tourism/ travel sites on how to get there so just take a crawl around the web). I usually take the Keihan Subway line from the centre of Kyoto or the JR Nara line from Kyoto station – its only a few short stops from Kyoto station.
A word of advice.. during a torrential downpour you might with to give the mostly outdoors shrine a miss unless you are well equipped with wet weather gear. However, the upside of visiting temples and shrines in the rain is that there are far less people around than normal – adding to the sense of calm.
Here are some snaps of a visit in in May – a rather underrated tourist season for Japan. I highly recommend it.
At the top of the first set of Torii is a wonderful place to purchase an Ema, or wooden votive, for writing your prayers, wishes and thoughts on and/or expressing your creativity in the case of this particular shrine. Check out the little foxy faces…. fantastic.
The local village is worth a little wander too. If you are feeling peckish look out for the Fushimi specialty Inari Sushi (Inarizushi). The foxes who guard Inari shrines are apparently very fond of fried tofu and particularly love the sweetened fried tofu which encases the rice in inarizushi. The combination of fried tofu and rice an understandable signature dish for the area!
Kisune (fox) udon or soba is also topped with fried tofu and is another of Fushimi’s gourmet treats – in honour of the fox deities/messengers/guardians… Lookout for the sparrow yakitori – sparrows are an enemy of rice apparently so eating the little critters shows that you are looking out for rice farmers everywhere. There is excellent sake in the area too and a sake museum I haven’t ventured to yet but if I make it there I will report back.
In need of something sweet – below is some seriously good soy ice cream soft serve on top of my partner’s favourite “ramune” (Japanese sweet soda) sorbet. I went for the Monaka (very light, crisp wafer shell) filled half half with black sesame/ vanilla soy milk soft serve.
Below are a wonderful foodie souvenier- crisp, sweet senbei (rice crackers) in the shape of a fox face. I think I distracted this poor felllow as he snapped the ear off one while I was taking his photo – lucky for me actually as he handed it to me to nibble on afterwards….