When I said that I saw as much of Kyoto during my 1-week stay as humanly possible, I really meant it! Two days after my Kiyomizudera adventures, we actually got an assignment in class requiring us to visit the famous Nishiki Market (錦市場), so I went there with a group of CLSers after class.
Nishiki Market is actually located in Shijo, near the arcade I went two days earlier.
Nishiki Market is an expansive covered marketplace, where one can find anything from food stalls selling fresh meats, fish, and spices, to shops selling traditional Japanese sweets and other goods. Some of the stalls have been passed down in the same family for generations, and others are newly established. It is a must-see if you’re in Kyoto – the perfect place to pick up souvenirs and try some weird Japanese foods. The end of the old marketplace leads into a newer shopping area filled with various clothing stores, arcades, and other souvenir shops – it’s definitely an area you could spend a whole afternoon exploring. For some reason I didn’t take too many pictures while I was there – probably because I was focused on my assignment.
But! I had other plans. After collecting information for my homework assignment, I headed off with my Doshisha language buddy Mayu and my friend Devon to see the Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社).
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is actually a little bit difficult to get to. You have to take a particular train line to get there, and it’s located in southern Kyoto, even farther south than Kyoto station.
But of course, when we got there, it was totally worth it! We arrived in the late afternoon so it wasn’t crowded at all. If you’re unfamiliar, the Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for it’s thousands (and I mean THOUSANDS) of red gates leading through a beautiful mountainside.
After making our way through the entrance area, we finally reached the beginning of the never-ending trail of red gates.
Those of you who read this blog and speak Japanese probably realize – the names carved into the gates are those of companies and various individuals. They are sponsored! You can literally purchase one of the gates and have your name carved in, if you really want to. I guess you could probably criticize this aspect of the Fushimi Inari Shrine. However, to me, this doesn’t take away from the magical feeling I get from the gates. It is really a sight to behold in person. The color of the gates is a beautiful hue that is somewhere between orange and red – in Japanese it’s just called “inari”, and is characteristic of Shinto shrines.
As you may have noticed by now, there are many statues of foxes found all over the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The shrine’s “mascot” (spirit closely associated with the shrine) is a fox. I’m not actually sure why this is! But the images pop up everywhere.
Mayu had to head to her part time job that evening, so eventually she took off, but Devon and I continued climbing for an extra hour or so before heading home. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is massive. We were told that to reach the very top of the mountain, it would be around 3 hours one-way. We didn’t make it up that far, but it’s definitely a goal of mine to reach it in the future! A word of advice – if you’re visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha, absolutely wear hiking shoes or at least comfy sneakers, and bring snacks and plenty of drinks! A bento is a good idea. Although there are stairs most of the way, it’s steep and exhausting – imagine climbing a staircase for 3 hours!
Fushimi Inari Taisha is probably my favorite site in Kyoto, of the places I’ve been so far. It just feels otherworldly to me – I really could go there a hundred times and not be bored of it.
Although my week in Kyoto was drawing closer to it’s end, I still managed a few more adventures while I was there! Stay tuned for loads more photos, as always!