Taking full advantage of our jet lag we were up and at our first site in Kyoto with the sunrise.
The god Inari – the god of rice and wealth – has been worshipped here since the late 900’s. The thousands of orange torii – the reason Adam and I came to visit – are all donated by businesses to pay homage to Inari.
We had the site entirely to ourselves at 7 AM with the exception of a lonely runner or solitary walker. I have to say that this is the way to see this site. The path leading up and around Inari mountain is quite narrow and so peaceful with the early sun breaking through the forest all around you. If you’re here, be here early. It’s well worth it.
Along the torii lined path are countless shrines, little side paths and stone foxes. The foxes are considered sacred messengers here and also hold symbolic “keys” to the rice granary in their mouths. It was a statue I hadn’t seen before in Japan and, at first glimpse, reminded me of ancient Egypt rather than modern day Japan.
At the halfway point of the path is a sweeping view of Kyoto and is quite breathtaking – both literally and figuratively as the path is very steep in places. You won’t really know that you’re at the halfway point until you see the view. This is partially because the entire path is a rough circle, but mostly because all of the different sign posts point in every direction while claiming that each one leads to the ‘top’.
Just keep walking was our constant refrain.
At the very top is a main shrine building where you have a chance to ring the bell and converse with the spirits. Although we were completely alone at the top there were already several candles lit giving the only evidence that someone else had already been there. The same was true for many other obscure shrines and the sight was inspiring that others, maybe non-tourists, were up so early in order to dedicate some part of their day to climbing up a mountain and sending up a word or two.
As we made our way down, the path became increasingly more frequented by other tourists who, like us, came in search of beauty.
And really hit the jackpot. Definitely a top moment in Japan.