How Did I End Up In Japan?
Japan, Here I Am!
September 19, 2015 was a day I’ll never forget because it’s the day that I stepped onto a plane for a 15 hour flight from New Jersey to Tokyo, Japan. A few days later, the girls and I were on the bullet train heading to Kyoto. The day after we arrived in Kyoto is when we went to Fushimi Inari-Taisha, and I experienced something that I will never forget. Kyoto is a beautiful city in its own right, but Fushimi Inari-Taisha has left a lasting impact on me that I will look back on for the rest of my life.
Fushimi Inari-Taisha: Why This Particular Shrine?
I had seen the movie Memoirs of a Geisha when it came out, and a few times since. There’s one scene in the movie where the young girl, living in a geisha house as a servant to the geishas, is dressed in her kimono and running through a maze of these orange colored gates. There were so many gates, it seemed like it would never end! I always said that I would go and visit that place, wherever it was, and here I was in Kyoto, standing at the entrance to the shrine.
Everyone has seen pictures of the orange torii gates at one point or another, but nothing beats seeing them in person. According to Wikipedia, Fushimi Inari-Taisha was started in 711 when the earliest shrine structures were built. 105 years later, in 816, the shrine was moved at the request of a monk. The main shrine was built in 1499 at the top of Mount Inari. You are able to hike up the mountain to visit the main shrine, and you can see many other smaller shrines and torii gates along the way. The hike to the top can take around 2 hours, as it is a few kilometers up some rough terrain. There are no paved paths up to the top of the mountain, so you have to be careful and not slip on rocks or off the path and get hurt. Partway up the mountain are two paths of orange torii gates. These two paths are known as senbon torii, which means thousands of torii. There is no difference between the two paths, so you can walk under either one and come out in the same location.
Goshuincho= Temple or Shrine Seal Book
One activity that is popular with both locals and foreign tourists alike is to get a goshuincho, which is a temple and shrine seal book. It is a book that opens up to cream colored paper and comes in a variety of colored, patterned covers. You go with your book to a designated place on the temple or shrine property, and monks of the temple with sign your book with the official seal of the temple. In most shrines and temples, the seals are hand-done with calligraphy. In Kyoto, there are shops along the streets that sell covers and bookmarks for the goshuincho books. When we went to the shops in Kyoto, I made sure to get a cover and bookmark to protect my goshuincho, as the book should be treated with respect and taken care of.
In The End,
It felt amazing to walk under the gates where many tourists had done before me, and monks and Shinto priests in years past. As I was walking throughout Fushimi Inari-Taisha, I felt an incredible peace- not just because we were in a spiritual place with many shrines around us, but because I was visiting a place that, all religion and spirituality aside, was incredibly beautiful and peaceful in its own right. If you’re ever in Kyoto, definitely go and visit Fushimi Inari-Taisha- you won’t regret it! I cannot thank my two friends enough for arranging this trip to Kyoto, and I will remember the visit to Fushimi Inari-Taisha for life. I cannot wait for the day I can go back to Kyoto and hike all the way up the mountain to the top. It would definitely be an incredible experience!