The Kansai Episode: The Kitsune Runner

It actually feels magical being here, seriously.

After a few days in the west, it was time to move clockwise-wards as we turned our attention to the eastern suburbs of Kyoto. While it isn’t further out than the attractions to the west, it was comparatively more inaccessible from a Kyoto Subway Pass point of view. We therefore agreed that we would use our ICOCA chargeable transit cards instead: first from Kyoto station to Inari station on JR West’s Nara Line, and subsequently on the Keihan Electric Railway’s Keihan Main Line from the conveniently named Fushimi-Inari station to Sanjo station for our next. My travel partner briefly considered taking a rather infrequent bus, but was ultimately convinced that time was a pressing manner.JR West’s Nara Line’s Inari station is conveniently located close to the shrine, and is just a moment’s journey away from Kyoto station. From the platform, the station’s sign point you in the right direction (east). The Keihan Main Line is merely ever so slightly west of that station.

While the site is an important Shinto shrine, it’s isn’t regarded as a place to witness the colors of the changing leaves in autumn. Therefore, it was significantly less crowded than the sights we visited prior in the ancient capital. Still, it was, at least for me, a “must-see” in Kyoto for the shrine is famous for its vermilion torri gates straddling a network of trails behind the main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which at 233 metres, is considered shrine grounds. I’ve heard stories of how an elderly man carried his dying wife dutifully up into the hill so they could pass on together. This site is also particularly well-known for being featured in the film Memoirs of a Geisha where a young Chiyo after meeting the kind Chairman, runs to the shrine to pray to become a geisha so that she may one day see him again. The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, and the foxes, who are thought to be Inari’s messengers.

The torii gates appear in rapid succession not because of any natural phenomena, but scarcity of space. Similar to Chiyo’s prayer for a better life, these gates along the entire trail are donations by both individuals and companies, with the donor’s name and the date of donation inscribed on the back of each gate. It starts at JPY 400,000 for a small-sized gate, and ranges up to a million yen for a large display. Small, palm-sized genuine ones are also available for donation, but they’re not exactly affordable either. I suppose it discourages people from diluting the effect of the torii gates. While a return hike to the summit takes two to three hours, we proceed not to go all the way even though I must admit being somewhat tempted by eating the aptly themed dishes like Inari Sushi and Kitsune Udon (Kitsune is Fox in Japanese) – both with aburaage (fried tofu) which is said to be a favorite food of the foxes – available at restaurants en route to the summit. We do not even reach the Yotsutsuji intersection which is said to boast some nice views over Kyoto.

The ubiquitous water washing thing by the entrance of every Japanese shrine and temples.

It’s a fox, not a dog.

I was stopped by people for taking this picture. Haha!

Cue John Williams’ Memoirs of A Geisha soundtrack.

Japanese school kids.

What is she doing?

We had simply too little time in Kyoto to really take our time. We head towards the Keihan Main Line’s Fushimi-Inari station northwards for our next destination.

Damn, my train’s here.

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