When we planned our Kyoto trip at the last minute, one of the driving factors was that we’d be seeing Kyoto during cherry blossom season, one of the most stunning times to be in Japan. We pulled a hotel, Shinkansen tickets, and planning together all in one day and the only thing I knew I had to see during our time in Kyoto was the legendary (at least on Instagram) Fushimi Inari-taisha Shinto Shrine.
Guarded by fierce kitsune (foxes), the shrine leads to a pathway up the mountain lined with thousands of torii (red gates that mark the transition into holy or spiritual space). Each of the torii was donated by a Japanese business, in thanks to Inari (the kami – spirit – of industry).
True story, I once wanted stone statues made of our beloved dog – still do. My husband allllllllllllmost had me convinced that was a terrible idea until I saw these majestic kitsune. Back on the table!!
Once you enter through the shrine and pass the market, the torii appear. And it was worth the hot, sweaty train ride with a toddler to get there.
The crowds were thick at first with travelers just starting out, but once we’d made our way about 200 feet in, they thinned out. Some folks pressed on ahead (the entire hike takes about two hours), some stopped for photographs within the gorgeous red gates, and some, like us, hopped off the path to play with a toddler who was more interested in throwing rocks than in walking on a continuous pathway, beautiful though it may be.
But that was okay, because it gave me plenty of time to explore.
And capture moments like this one.
We only ventured about a quarter of the way in, but if you have the time, I’d recommend hiking the full two hours. It was a beautiful sunny day, the scenery was stunning, and the walk through the incredible vermillion lane was so calming and relaxing, I could have happily spent the full day there.
Unfortunately parenting called, and as a tired toddler doesn’t typically enjoy climbing one way for hours on end, and we didn’t particularly relish the idea of hauling his thirty pounds down the path once he was done, we called it a day and headed back down toward the shrine and market in search of lunch.
With dozens of options to choose from, we settled on soba noodles with a dash of mayonnaise on top & fried squid onigiri, and found fresh squeezed orange juice as a side.
And we mean fresh!
But this orange juice was a big hit with our son, and with us. Whenever he drank all the juice, we refilled the orange with water and he was happily delighted/tricked into enjoying it all over again.
You can access this beautiful shrine by train to the Fushima Inari station, a few short hops from the grand Kyoto Station.