Fushimi Inari (visit #3), Tofukuji, Shimogamo Shrine, Munakata Shrine, Ippodo Tea
I really wanted to take pictures of Fushimi Inari while there were less people around, so we decided to get up extremely early this day to go visit the shrine before it opened… However, one of us is not an early riser, so it ended up being closer to 7:30am that we left the Airbnb. It was beautiful and peaceful so early, with a few people walking the trail, but it was empty enough to take a lot of great pictures. We are thoroughly obsessed with the entire mountain, so staying nearby was the right choice.
(Like we mentioned in our last blog, you can walk the paths on Mt. Inari any time of day! Early morning is a great time, but none of the shops or shrine buildings along the way will be open, just like our night visit.)
Another benefit of going early was all the local cats were out and about! In our two previous visits, we'd only seen one cat, so this was exciting. This one orange fellow was just sitting in a shrine alcove, meowing at us.
We walked up the main path to the halfway mark, Yotsusuji, and then headed to a great overlook point with a beautiful view, just off the normal path. We’d done some research on the various trails on the mountain the night before, so naturally we had to go the obscure way again! The view is indeed beautiful and has a much wider scope than the one at the halfway point.
(Lynnette’s Note: How to find the viewpoint… From Yotsusuji, with the downhill trail to your back, take the left most path until you reach a small shrine, go toward the left, behind the shrine [we actually cut through it] and you’ll find another path that leads you right to this viewpoint!)
From the viewpoint, we realized that we were already almost halfway to our next destination for the morning, Tofukuji temple. So, instead of walking all the way back down the mountain and taking the train one stop, we decided to take a hiking trail down. It’s part of the Kyoto Trail (part of a network of hiking trails throughout Kyoto), so it’s maintained for the most part. We used GPS to make sure we were going the right way. It wasn’t a difficult hike-- not like climbing the mountain the back way to the top! But there were a lot of rather steep paved areas to descend down and they were damp since it was early morning.
It was still early, so Tofukuji wasn’t open yet, but we still explored the grounds and took some pictures. By then we were exhausted, so we took the train back to Fushimi Inari, where we had some delicious breakfast Yakitori and Yakisoba! After a short rest back at our Airbnb, we headed out again.
Shimogamo shrine is one of the few shrines in Japan dedicated to Yatagarasu, a mythical golden crow. As it is the inspiration for the name of our business, as well as our logo, it was a must-see on our list. The shrine itself is small, but beautiful. We stocked up on crow related omamori (good luck charms) as well. We also visited the Kawai shrine, which is a small shrine dedicated to women on the same grounds.
Shimogamo is also recently popular because of an anime! We were wondering why there were random anime cutouts and a whole cabinet in the gift shop dedicated to this anime, so we had to look it up later.
We then walked to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, which was sadly closed that day since it's only open on very specific days, but we still enjoyed the park itself, and visited a few of the small shrines on the grounds, our favorite being the small Munakata shrine, where we met a lot of wild life! One cat walked right up to us, demanding pets! There were quite a few cats wandering the grounds, as well as a heron sitting atop one of the entrance gates!
We continued our walk to Ippodo Tea, which is an amazing tea store, as well as a tea room where you can experience authentically brewed Japanese tea. (They also offer tea ceremony classes, which we did not do.) Don’t fret, if you’re unsure of how to properly brew your teas, the workers there will tell you how to do it! There is English speaking staff in the shop and the tea room, as it’s a popular tourist destination. It’s a nice, quaint spot to sit down, elax and enjoy some traditional style tea. I had Hojicha, and Lynnette got their special year of the dog blend of Matcha.