We did a bit of exploring around the Kyoto/Osaka area and found a beautiful mix of ancient and modern culture. Here’s a gallery of random highlights. Enjoy!
Towards the end of our week long stay in Kyoto, we ended up having a free day. Should we just spend the entire day relaxing? Mulling over our options, we recalled that a friend mentioned visiting some temple grounds with red gates in Kyoto. We didn’t know anything about the place beyond that. So, after a restful morning, we decided to go for an afternoon visit to Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Our visit to the Shinto temple turned out to be one of the highlights of the four months we were abroad!
Fushimi Inari Taisha is the most important of around 30,000 shrines throughout Japan that are dedicated to Inari, the Shinto God of Rice. Legend has it that Irogu no Hatanokimi was practicing his archery in the early 8th century by shooting at rice cakes, when one of the rice cakes transformed into a swan and flew away, eventually landing on a mountaintop. The landing spot then miraculously became an abundant rice field. The miracle was called Inari and the entire mountain was viewed as holy and enshrined to the God of Rice.
After arriving at the main lower temple, we started climbing up pathways and stairs through hundreds and hundreds of Torii Gates – vermillion red gateways that are donated by individuals or businesses to symbolize a wish for, or acknowledgement of prayers to Inari. We passed countless personal alters and shrines dating as far back as the early 8th century, to the top of the sacred Mount Inari. We didn’t return to the base of the temple compound until well after dark! The timing and spontaneity of our visit to the site (being able walk amongst the ancient and modern structures during the sunset /twilight hours along the lighted pathways) made for a magical experience that only unplanned travel can provide!
Please enjoy some photos from our visit. We’ve included two galleries of photos because there was so much to see!
There are over 10,000 Torii Gates of all sizes along the mountain paths leading to the summit of Mount Inari. The vermillion red pigment (which is made from mercury and red earth) has been used on the buildings and Torii Gates as a preservative since ancient times. The color is considered an amulet against evil forces, but also expresses the bountiful harvests that Inari gives. Texts describe Inari as a deity, “who feeds, clothes and houses us and protects us so that all of us may live with abundance and pleasure” and one, “who protects all people.” The countless fox statues positioned around the shrines are Byakkosan, or “white foxes.” They are the invisible messengers of Inari and are regarded as protectors of the rice fields.