Stairs to the Summit: Musashi-Mitake Shrine

(Click here to start from Part 1 of this series on hiking Mount Mitake.)  High atop Mount Mitake, northwest of Tokyo, Musashi-Mitake Shrine offers gorgeous views of Chichibu Tama-Kai National Park, home to a number of sacred peaks (including Mitake). The entrance to the shrine looks much like many other Shintō holy places, with a purification fountain: and a torii marking the formal entry to the sacred space: Carved stone lanterns (toro) and ceremonial stones flank the flight of steep stone stairs leading up to the shrine’s main gate. On the day I visited, cool breezes fluttered the flags beside the stairs. Although the clouds obscured my view of

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The Path of 1,000 Torii (Fushimi Inari, Part 3)

(Click here to start the series from the beginning.) Near the base of Mount Inari (Inariyama), past the stairs that lead from the Hondo (worship hall) to the path that climbs the sacred mountain, lies the famous “Path of a Thousand Torii” – a tunnel made of sacred gates that has become a familiar, iconic image of Japan: At the start of the path, enormous torii tower twenty and thirty feet high, dwarfing visitors. Inside the path, the gates are placed so close together that the light takes on an orange hue:

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