Starting up the Mountain at Fushimi Inari Taisha

(This blog picks up where last week’s tour of Fushimi Inari left off. To start at the beginning, click here.)

Fushimi Inari’s primary altar stands just past the massive entry gates. Although the shrine has many altars – large ones as well as lesser ones (some dedicated to Inari and others to different kami, though most of them are Inari’s since it’s Inari’s sacred mountain)

16F26 Fushimi Inari Main Shrine

Like most Shinto shrines, the altars at Fushimi Inari are adorned with shide, white paper folded in a zig-zag pattern and presented as an offering.

16F26 FI Shrine papers

Behind the main altar, and to the left, stands the first and widest of the many staircases that lead visitors up the sacred mountain.

16F26 FI staircase

As is often the case at Fushimi Inari Taisha, a pair of stone foxes–Inari’s messengers and guardians–stands guard on either side at the base of the stairs.

16F26 Inari fox guarding stairs

Three sub-shrines with collection boxes sit at the top of the first large staircase, along with a map of the shrine precinct. If you look, you can find the red dot that means “you are here”:

16F26 Shrine Map FI

A path branches off to the left, leading to a wooded glade that’s home to several more small shrines and lines of carved stone lanterns. To the right stands a “stable” where the shrine’s white horse statue is stored between festivals. (On festival days, horse statues now stand in for the real horses Shinto shrines would formerly sacrifice to the gods. To learn more about this custom, click here.)

16F26 Inari horse barn

Beyond the horse’s “stable” lies the entrance to yet another path–the one most people visit this shrine to see.

16F26 Gates (beginning)

The paths that lead up Mount Inari are lined with thousands of wooden torii (by some counts, at least 10,000) donated by companies and individuals alike.

16F26 Starting gates FI

The gates are close together near the base of the mountain, and very large – the people in the photos provide the scale. The gates decrease somewhat in size for a while, but grow much larger again as you climb the mountain.

That’s all we have time for in this installment, but I hope you’ll join me next Monday, as we continue our journey and begin the climb through Fushimi Inari’s 10,000 torii gates.


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