What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?”
“It will be.”
“And what if it is? What do I do then?”
“Well,that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.”
I can distinctly remember the moments where some of the top items on my bucket list became solidified. I’d always been aware of both places, but there are moments in my memory where I suddenly went, “I will see that. And it will be amazing.”
Yesterday, I was able to see both these places in a matter of hours. And it really was amazing.
The number one spot on my bucket list was Fushimi Inari Shrine. It’s one of the most iconic places in Japan, though not everyone may know the name of it. Much like others, the moment where it stuck in my memory and became a “must see” place was when I watched “Memoirs of a Geisha” and saw the scene of Chiyo running through the thousands of torii gates to make her prayer. (You can see the scene here, if interested.) I later found out the place was real, along with a few other key locations in the movie. I knew then that one day, I’d have to go there, just to have my moment walking down that path.
When I planned to go to Japan, I really only had one goal in mind (other than go to the concerts I bought tickets for): I wanted to reconnect with the Japan I had once loved. When I left Japan, I didn’t really love Japan any more. Being away for so long, and then living in Korea didn’t help, feeling like the country had been replaced. I knew I loved Japan, I just couldn’t remember why. So, I wanted to see everything I had dreamt about before, and remember why. If I was going to do this, visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine was the number one thing I had to do.
Yesterday morning (read: early afternoon. I AM on vacation, after all…) I made my way over to Kyoto from my hostel in Osaka, and trekked to Inari Station. I was really worried that it would be difficult to find the shrine, as some are, but luckily, the station is really close. I knew that there was some hiking involved, so I grabbed some water from the convenience store by the station, along with an onigiri (rice ball, one of many I’ve consumed this vacation) and walked the hundred or so metres to the first gate.
Inari is the god of rice, but is also considered the god of business, and is a principle kami in the Shinto religion. The reason there are so many torii gates is because each one is donated by a business, praying for wealth and success. You can tell a shrine to Inari because of the fox statues that guard the shrine, since they are considered messengers to Inari. Often, they will hold a key in their mouth, which is the key to the rice granary. [/useless back information.]
The path of torii gates is a legitimate hike, which can take up to three hours if you do the entire route. Most people will go to the first or second level shrine and turn back. That’s what I did. Finding the gates is really easy, because you just follow the signs and the crowd. It starts are one path of large gates, and everyone stops to get photos there. They’re not even the best gates though. The best gates are the ones about a hundred metres in. Here, the gates split into two, and they’re so close, it’s like walking indoors.
When I got to the top of the split gates, there was a small shrine, as well as a shop where the priests would sell different amulets and protective items. I’ve always been fond of omamori (, and tend to buy one at the bigger shrines. As one of the only souvenirs I’ve bought for myself, I bought myself a good fortune omamori for my phone, and then got a necklace in the shape of the key the fox carries, which is suppose to bring success.
My favourite part of the first level shrine was the omokaruishi. This means “heavy light rocks”. You were supposed to make a wish, and then lift the rock at the top. If the rock felt light, then your wish would come true! So of course, I had to try. I tossed in my coin (a 5 yen coin, since those are the ones with the most luck) and made my wish. I knew others were watching me try because it’s always interesting to see a foreigner do Japanese things, apparently, so the pressure was on! I was so worried the rock would be heavy and I’d fail…
But it was light as a feather! I actually gasped out loud when I picked it up, because it was so effortless. The girl behind me looked wide-eyed and laughed at my surprise. I watched a few others make their wish, and found not all of them had the same reaction I did. I also thought of some of my friends, who are notoriously weak, and felt bad that their wish wouldn’t come true here.
I spent a really long time at the shrine, over all. It was one of the most peaceful, beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I could have spent all day there. However, the weather was ridiculously hot, and the mosquitoes were rather vicious, so I eventually left, heading off to part two on my epic, Bucket List destroying day.
Part two is deserving of its own post in the coming days. For now, here’s the full photo collection from Fushimi Inari Shrine!