Fushimi Inari was one of my highlights during a two-week Japan getaway- an ancient pathway of bright orange torii gates and shrines, just a five-minute-train-journey from Kyoto Station.
I’d wanted to see it for myself ever since watching Memoirs of a Geisha, in which the main character (as a small girl) runs through the blur of orange. In person, it’s even more staggering.
On arrival, the crowds were dense and slow, with incessant exquisitely-posed selfies interrupting the thick snake of people starting the ascent. But as we climbed, the crowds drifted away, tourists deterred from the 233m Mount Inari in the August heat. And as soon as you’re out of the throng, the experience becomes so much more enjoyable: the simple beauty of bright orange set against the lush green mountain.
It’s free, simple and wonderful – please do it.
Taking about 2-3 hours (I’d recommend doing it first thing or in the afternoon – we arrived around 3pm), you can stock up for/wind down from the walk with a delicious bowl of black ramen from Ramen Muraji in Kyoto. Marc and I both follow Jay Rayner on Twitter, who happened to be in Japan at the same time as we were. We saw him tweet a picture of this dish and decided to trust the recommendation – which, despite involving a 45-minute queue, was definitely a good decision.
Ramen Muraji is a small restaurant situated in a charming wooden building in Gion. Tables are communal and the menu is simple and utterly delicious. We both opted for black ramen as our main – the broth was thick, creamy and had a huge depth of flavour – the chicken radiating warmth in our full bellies. Sides of crispy fried chicken and chicken fried rice (with the egg muddled into the rice at the table) and matcha green tea ice cream (the smoothest ice cream I’ve ever tried) were perfect.
With Ramen Muraji and Fushimi Inari making up your itinerary, you can’t get a better day in Kyoto. That is, unless you happen to be there on Daimonji – an obon fire festival – which, we were. Five fires are lit on the mountains surrounding the city to welcome spirits back to the world of the living. We watched the kanji character (meaning ‘large’ or ‘great’) burning brightly on Mount Daimonji from the banks of the Kamo river with our friends. Drinking beer and watching the night light-up really was a wonderful final chapter to an unforgettable trip.