Some of you may remember that our 2012 trip to Japan was marred by my getting tendonitis in both legs midway through. As a result, we never made it to Fushimi Inari, which was supposed to be one of the high points on our trip. Our trip this year was for months a big question mark, as I continued to have problems with my knees, lower legs and feet. But thanks to my wonderful podiatrist, Dr. Bouche, my great PT's, Tom and Noriko, and my fabulous acupuncturist, Jim, I was not only able to go to Fushimi Inari, but we made it all the way to the top, 233 meters!
First, I should tell you a bit about the friend who came with us. In 2012, we used the Good Samaritan program in Kyoto. The program offers free English speaking college students to act as guides for tourists, with the tourists paying only the guides' costs (for example, transportation costs, admission fees, food). In 2012, we were lucky enough to get two guides, Yuki and Yuuki. Yuki is a bright young woman now in graduate school. Yuuki, a wonderful young man, has two years left for his undergraduate degree and is interested in becoming a fireman/international rescue expert. We have since kept up with them through Facebook. This year, each was kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to spend some time with us.
Yuuki went with us on our Fushimi Inari. The oldest shrine in Kyoto (although its present incarnation is considerably more recent), Fushimi Inari was originally built so that farmers would have a place to pray for bountiful harvests. Over the years, its scope broadened to include businesses hoping to prosper. Now a business who wants to better its chances for success can pony up some money for its own torii gate. And it seems likely practically every business in Kyoto has done so.
Here's the main shrine, often overlooked because of the torii gates.
But what people come from far and wide to see is the torii gates, which start at the bottom and extend all the way up the mountain. Here's a partial map of our route.
The lower parts can be quite crowded. It's a little intimidating to go into the torii gates, only to be faced by an onrush of school kids coming the other way.
Many people come to the shrine in traditional dress.
As with most shrines, people can record their wishes and leave them. At Fushimi Inari, the wishes are written on fox-shaped paper.
And, of course, everyone is taking pictures, including selfies!
Here we are, Yuuki and I, getting ready to start.
Although most of the journey feels like it's straight up, there are several flat places along the way, either for rest and refreshment or for more places to put more individual shrines and torii gates.
At one of the stops, there's a lovely pond. You can see large fish and large turtles. And more torii gates, both big and small.
There were also several cats. This one was particularly friendly. Plus someone brought this very nice bull terrier.
Still we kept going up--straight up. To paraphrase Treasure of Sierra Madre, switchbacks? Switchbacks? We don't need no stinkin' switchbacks.
In this photo, the old lady in front of us must have been well into her 80's. She climbs up about half way twice a week. Learning that, I realize I have NO EXCUSE not to make it to the top! (Yuki kept telling me at the bottom that he thought it would be very hard for me. I'm sure he thought I'd never make it and would wimp out half way up.)
Time for another rest stop. They have kinako (roasted soy bean flour)-flavored ice cream cones, and nice places to sit!
But we're soon on our way again. Yuuki's impressed as Dick literally ran up the stairs in front of us to get this photo.
Still going straight up! Finally, the top is in sight! We've made it! There's just some small stone shrines at the top.
If we had more time, we could wander around the various side trails, but Yuuki needs to get back to his hometown of Osaka to play in a soccer game. So it's time to go back down--harder on the knees than going up. The route down is different, but still more torii gates.
Down at the bottom, there are food vendors galore. Here's a pastry shaped like a fish.
My reward for going all the way and all the way back down is a fish pastry filled with pudding and topped with corn flakes, whipped cream, fresh bananas, and Hershey's chocolate syrup! The perfect end to a perfect day!