A lot comes to mind when you think of Japan: the lights and allure of Tokyo, sushi, bullet trains, maybe even weird porn. Having now visited and experienced Japan for a couple of weeks the incredible amount and quality of historical shrines and temples is what first comes to mind for me now. There is one of these that stands out, though – none other than Kyoto's Fushimi Inari-taisha, colloquially referred to as Fushimi Inari.
An initial clusterf*** once we arrived, my girlfriend and I quickly realized why most guides say to get here early (it's open 24 hours a day). It was like sardines in a can for the first 30 minutes of the hike. I was a little bummed out when we got there from the sheer amount of people, but be patient and you'll be rewarded by serenity and solitude as you get towards the top or branch off a side route.
Around 10,000 torii (gates) span the entirety of Fushimi Inari, all varying shades of orange and physical condition. Not only do the gates themselves line the path up to the top of the mountain, but smaller shrines and adjacent trails also give you more to look at.
Graveyards were a popular addition it seemed. As nearly all graves we saw in Japan, they fit the common family grave style found throughout the country.
The entire reasoning behind Fushimi Inari Taisha is to honor the god, Inari. The kami [神] (god) Inari resembles a fox with white hair. There are plenty of representations of Inari and foxes and general all throughout the shrine – it's what the entirety of the shrines are all about.
The walk up is more of a hike than a walk, but a mild one at that. Still, don't wear boots or something super uncomfortable, and bring some water unless you don't mind paying slightly higher than normal vending prices. Teahouses and cafes are sporadic through the mountain, and it's only fitting in the shrine of the Kami of commerce.
Gifts and souvenirs are plenitful, I suggest picking up a miniature torii gate, where they'll write your name in Katakana (one of the 3 libraries in the Japanese language), as well as Fushimi Inari and Tokyo, Japan. A nice Pocari Sweat – my personal favorite drink from Japan – out of a vending machine is great, too.
Making your way up Mount Inari also exposes more and more great views of Kyoto in the distance if it's a clear day. While no where near as high or exposed, it reminded me a little bit of the Tokyo Skytree. Quite a bit harder to find a large observation deck in Kyoto, but Mount Inari does just fine all things considered.
The top of the shrine isn't anything climaxing or spectacular, as the entirety of the shrine itself is truly the "goal" of Fushimi Inari. I do think it's worth it to complete the shrine's intended path, but if you're for some reason short on time just getting out of the crowd of people and seeing a piece in solitude will be a completing experience.
Fushimi Inari is a true can't miss experience in Japan. Even with the mass amount of people in the beginning its worth it. Even better if you can get there early. Just take your time and go off any path you see – it's well worth spending a few hours, easy.