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  • Writer's pictureJW

My walking tour through the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

There are numerous opportunities to visit shrines and temples in Kyoto. I really wanted to visit a shrine with a guide to find out some background information about the culture and religion - so I booked a guided walking tour.


The meeting point was at 8am at the entrance to the temple. The guide was a Frenchman who has lived in Kyoto for several years. I had a hard time getting up that day, but when I arrived at the temple and found only a few tourists there, I immediately realized that it had paid off.


At the entrance to the temple, there was a fox statue to the left and right of the torii. Foxes are generally very important in Japan - they are seen as messengers of the rice goddess Inari and therefore stand for fertility. They are also associated with long life, intelligence and magical powers. This is why you often see shrines in Japan that are lined with fox statues. One of the statues at the entrance has an open mouth which stands for life, the other has a closed mouth which stands for death - thus the statues symbolize the cycle of life.


The main shrine is generally located at the entrance area, with numerous steps leading up the mountain through the torii tunnels to three side shrines. Scattered around the area are countless stone altars that serve as places of worship for the deity Inari. Many small souvenirs can be found on these, which tourists can purchase on site and leave there as lucky charms - such as small fox statues or torii with engraved names and dates.


What this temple is particularly known for is the large number of toriis, you could even say that the immense number of toriis, which are very close together, have created real torii tunnels leading up the mountain. These torii were donated, mostly by companies. The name of the donor and the year of the donation are inscribed on each torii. In Japan, it is a great honor to donate a torii for a shrine like this and there are even waiting lists, so coveted are donations for this shrine.


After passing through some of these torii tunnels, we came to a prayer building on which 2 stones were placed. These are called "Omo-karu Ishi". The name is made up of the words "Omoi", which stands for heavy, and "Karui", which stands for light. According to our guide, if you have a specific wish, you should bow down, pick up the stone, recall the wish, put the stone down and bow down again. If the stone seems lighter than you thought, then the wish will come true. If the stone is heavier than you thought, then it will be difficult and you will have to work even harder to make your wish come true. However, you can always come back and make the wish again. However, I haven't found out why these stones are so special. 😊


On the way to the top of the hill, where the side shrines are located, you pass a large stump of a pine tree, on which you can also see some very large roots. Some people interpret the appearance of this tree stump as the lower body of a human being. Due to the age that this tree must have reached, a special energy is attributed to it. It is said to bring good luck for one's own health (especially for the lower body such as the lower back) to walk under the roots of this tree.


After a lot of steps and crossing toriis, we reached the summit where the three side shrines are located. I have to admit that the saying "the journey is the reward" is appropriate for this temple visit, because the way up and down with beautiful views of Kyoto was super varied and entertaining. Once at the top, it was interesting to have a quick look at the shrines, but not a highlight from my point of view.


As there is a circular path, we were able to take a different route down. Although the temple is located in this large city of Kyoto, it is still beautifully nestled in a densely overgrown forest. It's a great way to cross through this multitude of toriis in the middle of nature.


All in all, I can definitely recommend both the (early!) temple visit and the walking tour. Background information makes an interesting temple even more exciting!



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