After visiting all the structures at Fushimi Inari Taisha‘s center past Romon (The main gate), it’s time to make it upstairs where you will see a path to the left and the path to the right.
There are a few shops but this is where you will encounter a map before heading up.
But it’s when you make the turn to go upstairs again and then you are greeted with a few of the first of 10,000 vermillion red torii.
The first sight of the Torii is quite incredible. Everyone’s faces when they see it for the first time, everyone’s in awe.
It’s one thing to see the initial torii gates when you arrive to Fushimi Inari Taisha but it’s another thing when you finally get to see and walk up the mountain for it.
According to the Fushimi Inari Taisha website:
Vermillion red torii gateways are a famous feature of Inari shrines, and the color evokes a strong sense of spirituality for Japanese people.
The torii gateways of Inari shrines are painted by the same Inari-nuri technique as the building.
The Japanese word for “vermilion”, ake, can be written in various different characters, each with a different meaning. In addition to its meaning as a shade of red, the word can also refer to red in general, dawn and light. These meanings convey a sense of brightness and hope, and the color is associated with a strong belief in the soul of Inari Okami and blessings for life, the earth and production.
Worshipers have donated torii gates to express prayers and appreciation since the Edo period (1603-1868), and Fushimi Inari Taisha is now famous for its Senbon Torii “Thousand Torii” gateways.
But it’s this site that begins your journey up to the mountain. There is one thing everyone should know and somehow people forget this. As you can see on the sign, you start on the right side, not on the left. While everyone on the right is going up the mountain, everyone on the left is coming down from the mountain.
I think there are people who are confused by this because they are told to stay on the right. But that is when going up the mountain on your way up. When you are coming down the mountain, then you can go on the right side. In other words, similar to like driving a car (in America), follow the path of traffic.
So often, I see people trying to come down on the wrong side of traffic and it leads to congestion within the gates.
One thing that is very cool is that with every 100 yards or so, you may find a bathroom, shop or resting area.
The maintainers of the location are well-aware of how busy this place is that they made it easy enough to have a rest area at certain points while going up the mountain but also adequate space for those who want to head back down the mountain. So, that’s a major plus.
And in the next part, I will talk about the mysterious sidepaths at Fushimi Inari Taisha while you make your way up the mountain.