What to See at Fushimi Inari 伏見稲荷大社
Mount Inari lies just outside of Kyoto, Japan, and is quite possibly the most beautiful and impressive site in all of Japan. This sacred mountain is covered in thousands of vermilion "torii" gates which line the paths winding up the mountain. You can reach Fushimi Inari by a short 10-minute train ride to Inari Station along the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station. It's a small local train, and departs regularly.
What to See at Fushimi Inari-Taisha - 伏見稲荷大社
Visiting the god of sake
The best part of Fushimi Inari is that it is free to visit! The mountain is dedicated to the god Inari, the god of rice, sake, and money. It's a sacred site (and a very popular place for selfies!) and the paths up the mountain are lined with the red torii gates marking a Shinto shrine. The gates represent the separation of the sacred from the earthly.
Although it's usually a bit crowded at the base of the mountain, few visitors actually climb all the way to the top. Get past the crowds of tourists, and it will feel like you have the whole place to yourself. It's a bit of a hike, but plenty of older people in Japan climb the mountain every day. Wear comfortable shoes. There are plenty of places to sit and rest along the way. It usually takes 2-4 hours to walk the whole of the mountain, depending on your pace.
The path winds 4 km up the mountain past literally thousands (as many as 32,000) smaller shrines. These shrines are often maintained by a family, and dedicated to their ancestors.
What does the fox say?
The fox is the symbol of the god Inari, and is believed to be the god's messenger. Along the way, you'll pass hundreds of statues of foxes wearing the red cloths of the shrine. The fox is also the symbol of the shrine, and there are plenty of fox-themed souvenirs to buy along the way.
If you get tired, there are plenty of covered rest areas along the way: tea houses serving hot green tea, ice cream, and delicious tea sweets. Prices are reasonable, a few hundred yen for a set, and the tea houses are great places to rest along your journey.
Even though Fushimi Inari is one of the busiest and most popular places to visit in Kyoto, it doesn't feel touristy at all. Sure, it's a little crowded around the main shrine, but once you begin the walk up the mountain, the crowds will fall behind and you'll be able to really enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the shrine. There is no entrance fee or opening hours. It's a public place for meditation and enjoying the beauty of nature.