Fox hunting at Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari with kids

The 10,000 vermillion gate sof Fushimi Inari in Kyoto

One thing you could never accuse Kyoto of is a shortage of temples and shrines. There are quite literally thousands of them. But even amongst Kyoto’s 400 individual Shinto shrines, Fushimi Inari is one of its most extraordinary and unforgettable.

This is not just because the sight of its 10,000 or so tightly spaced bright vermillion Torri gates may be permanently seared into your retinas. Though that is a distinct possibility. It’s because the Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine is a magical and otherworldly place that will take your breath away.

The 10,000 vermillion gate sof Fushimi Inari in Kyoto

Quite literally, if you make it all the way up to the top – around four kilometres – and have similarly appalling levels of fitness to me. But regardless of my huffing and puffing, this is my kind of shrine.

50 shades of vermillon at Fushimi Inari in Kyoto

The Fushimi Inari origin story

Not only is Fushimi Inari gobsmackingly beautiful and packed with 1300 plus years of fascinating history, it is a shrine to food and booze! The ancient mother shrine of Inari, the Shinto god of rice and sake, it is said to have first been dedicated to the granary god in the year 711 by the Hata clan… around 83 years before Kyoto’s founding.

Incidentally, Inari is often identified with Benxaiten. No, not Ben Ten. Benxaiten… of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods fame. Portrayed as an androgynous bodhisattva riding a flying white fox, she/he’s also Raff’s best spiritual pal since our arrival in Kyoto. You see Raff has become addicted to buying charms from temple lucky dips and gets Benxaiten every time. Given Benxaiten is the goddess of wit, eloquence and music, he figures that means she/he’s like the Dave Grohl of the gods and feels her/his patronage is a very good omen. But I digress…

Foxes at Fushimi Inari

Along with the magical, seemingly unending trail of Torii gates that wind through the hills, the shrine is home to hundreds of stone foxes, said to be the messengers of Inari.

which are said to be the messengers of Inari and their are hundreds at Fushimi Inari

Raffles and Sugarpuff love hunting these little and large foxes, hidden in numerous small sub shrines along the pathway.

A sub shrine at Fushimi Inari

The foxes are also known as Inari and mostly appear in pairs, one fox carrying a sacred jewel representing the spirit of the gods in its mouth, the other a key to the rice granary. You see, it’s a little known fact that foxes are excellent locksmiths and often moonlight as jewel thieves.

Fox Ema boards at Fushimi Inari

Turns out they are also considered sacred by the Japanese who believe that foxes are capable of ‘possessing’ a human, entering under the fingernails. Sneaky little buggers…

Fushimi Inari shrine etiquette

Upon entry to any shrine, you’ll find a purification fountain and ladles to wash your hands and mouth before approaching the main hall. We go through the ritual, ensuring our mouths do not touch the ladle, though I go back for seconds as I figure I need a little extra given mine’s predilection for profanity.

:adles at the water purification pavilion at Fushimi Inari

We purchase Ema, those funky little wooden plates that people write on to leave their wishes in the hope they will come true.

Ema at Fushimi Inari

Raff also gets an Omikuji. These are kind of like a sacred lottery, with random fortunes written on strips of paper. Should they be of the not-so-auspicious variety you tie them to strings at the shrine and leave them behind to avert bad luck.

Omikuji at Fushimi Inari

Happily, Raff’s Omikuji delivers a message of good luck and travel in his future which, given he’s currently on holidays, really can’t be argued with. He’ll take it! But he’ll also ring the bell to greet the in-house deity… just in case.

Raffles rings the bell at Fushimi Inari

The path to the summit of Fushimi Inari

While the main shrine building, the Go-Honden, which dates from 1499, and the surrounding structures are pretty impressive, the main attraction is not the shrine itself but that epic army of Torri gates marching up the hill.

Kyoto: Fushimi Inari with kids

The hike to the summit of the mountain and back is said to take around two to three hours. This, however, does not account for those visiting Fushimi Inari with kids.

Raffles is swept up in the atmosphere of Fushimi Inari

Particularly if said kids are four-year old prima donnas who drop to the ground in protest and demand to be carried after every second gate… and then insist on playing hide and seek in the alternate ones.

SUgarpuff plays hide and seek between the Torii gates at Fushimi Inari

If you too happen to be travelling with a small stubborn person, I would suggest allowing around 16 or 17 days for the trek to the top  because it will take that long… at least it will feel like it.

Fushimi Inari with kids

The good news is that it’s all down hill on the return trip. And you can just push them. So long as no one is watching. I jest. Or do I?

The 10,000 vermillion gate sof Fushimi Inari in Kyoto

In all seriousness, you don’t have to hike the entire path. You can enjoy as much or little as their little legs and your aching arms can handle before making the return trip.

Kyoto: Fushimi Inari with kids

Shrine snacks

You’ll find restaurants along the way to break up the walk. Though this too can prove problematic if you happen to be travelling with a seven-year old glutton, as he’ll want to stop at each and every one to try the food. This will require you to add at least another four days to the journey. The good news though is that the local specialities served are quite delicious, especially Kitsune Udon, a soup filled with plump noodles and fried tofu, which is said to be a favourite food of foxes. Because another little known fact about foxes is that they all possess frying pans, can make fire, and are skilled chefs.

All the stores leading from the shrine are packed with trinkets, toy, amulets, and sweets made to resemble those dextrous foxes, except for a completely random cat café, which of course the kids insist we patronise… while wearing fox masks.

But that is a story for another day.

Fushimi Inari is just one of Kyoto’s many must-visit temples and attractions, but it’s so worth the visit. That on return to our ryokan Sugarpuff insists we return for a second time (though I suspect that may have something to do with the aforementioned cat cafe).  If you’re after a less retina-searingly colourful introduction to the ancient city, you can find more on Kyoto with kids here.

21 Comments on Fox hunting at Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari with kids

  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    April 4, 2016 at 4:11 pm (8 years ago)

    I wish I had more time in Kyoto! Although I do like seeing shrines and temples, one or two is quite enough for me so to see a really spectacular one suits me 😀

      April 4, 2016 at 9:56 pm (8 years ago)

      I love a good temple… I think I bore the rest of the clan silly with my temple addiction but this one was a hit with everyone. SO incredible x

  2. Hugzilla
    April 4, 2016 at 9:35 pm (8 years ago)

    Wow, this looks absolutely stunning!! I LOVE those little hanging fox face thingies as well. I love walking, so this is something I would massively enjoy doing.

      April 4, 2016 at 9:59 pm (8 years ago)

      I adored it, even with the tanty chucking tot in tow. It is seared into my memory forever.

  3. KazMac
    April 5, 2016 at 6:53 am (8 years ago)

    This looks amazing. I really want to go to Kyoto now. And I really want to hear about your little foxes at the cat cafe

      April 5, 2016 at 8:16 am (8 years ago)

      Hehe …. I’ll share it soon.

      April 5, 2016 at 4:25 pm (8 years ago)

      It is definitely bucket list worthy

  4. Vanessa
    April 5, 2016 at 10:33 am (8 years ago)

    It looks gorgeous (even if it sounds a little exhausting).

  5. Haidee
    April 5, 2016 at 12:23 pm (8 years ago)

    Wow, that looks really cool! I’d love to show my kids the world, something like this would blow their minds! #TeamIBOT

      April 5, 2016 at 4:29 pm (8 years ago)

      It’s an amazing thing to share with them.

  6. EssentiallyJess
    April 5, 2016 at 3:11 pm (8 years ago)

    That looks so cool! I would love to know what the posts have written on them.

      April 5, 2016 at 4:24 pm (8 years ago)

      Believe it or not each of the Torii gates at Fushimi Inari is donated by a Japanese business or individual seeking good fortune and prosperity – the writing is their name and the date of the donation – kind of like ancient advertising 😉

  7. Christine @ Adventure, Baby!
    April 5, 2016 at 8:41 pm (8 years ago)

    SO beautiful!!! And lol the 16 day hike 😉 Yes I know about “kid time” vs “actual time”.

      April 5, 2016 at 9:02 pm (8 years ago)

      Yes there’s quite a difference 🙂

  8. northierthanthou
    April 8, 2016 at 8:32 pm (8 years ago)

    Looks like a lot of fun. I especially love that corridor image with all the red posts.

  9. Kate
    April 9, 2016 at 7:59 pm (8 years ago)

    Just beautiful

  10. Shannon@ my2morrows
    April 11, 2016 at 8:09 am (8 years ago)

    I think Japan just jumped a couple of spots on our travel bucket list! This looks fantastic! Xx


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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