Today we continue our trip up Mount Inari, the sacred mountain that forms the centerpiece of Fushimi Inari Taisha (Japan’s largest, and most important, Inari shrine).*
The climb up Mount Inari takes 1-3 hours, depending how quickly you take the stairs and whether or not you stop for lunch at one of the 19 “stations” interspersed along the roughly circular route. (If you choose, you can take one path to the top and come down the other side of the circle, which means you see both sides of the mountain and without having to retrace your steps.)
Some of the stations (which also feature sub-shrines and places for worshippers to make offerings to Inari) have better views than others, so if you’re planning to stop, keep that in mind.
One of the larger sub-shrines sits about halfway up the mountain, and features a large sub-shrine and altar as well as a snack shop and a traditional sit-down restaurant.
Built in the classical Japanese style, the restaurant features low tables with cushions atop a raised dais (no shoes on the table level) and a spectacular 180-degree view of Kyoto. Here’s the view from my table:
The restaurant doesn’t offer an English-language menu, but (like many Japanese eateries) the menu does feature color photographs of every offering, making it fairly easy for guests to select a meal. I chose the local specialty: Inari-zushi (sometimes written “Inari sushi”), a dish reputed to be one of Inari’s personal favorites, and also a favorite of the kitsune and foxes who serve as messengers to the god.
Traditional Inarizushi consists of sweetened sushi rice mixed with black sesame, rolled in deep-fried tofu skin. It’s one of my favorite Japanese dishes, and the variety served on Mount Inari was–unsurprisingly–spectacular.
The deep green beverage beside my plate is a glass of sweetened, iced matcha (essentially green tea, but made from powdered leaves as opposed to the steeped variety). It’s delicious and very refreshing on a humid summer day.
While eating, I enjoyed the view of Kyoto through one set of windows, while on the other side I watched a steady stream of visitors passing through the sub-shrine station. Delicious food, a steady breeze, and plenty to watch made this one of my favorite lunch experiences in Kyoto.
After the meal, I continued up the slope toward the peak of Mount Inari, and the sacred shrine that sits at the very top.
I hope you’ll join me next Monday for the final steps to the summit!
And if you ever find yourself in Kyoto, I hope you’ll take the time to visit Mount Inari and experience the mountain for yourself–it’s truly a special place to see.
*If you want to walk the path from the beginning, the other posts in the series are: