Mount Inari, named after a prominent Shinto deity, stands over the historic city of Kyoto. From
its peak, most of the city is visible, and the combination of history and modernity that defines Kyoto is clear on even the cloudiest day. But this isn’t just any normal hiking trail. It’s the home of the Fushimi Inari shrine, one of Japan’s most recognizable power spots.
At the base of the mountain, vendors sell an assortment of tasty snacks to passers-by. Thick chunks of crabmeat on skewers are popular among hikers, who have either just finished scaling the mountain or are preparing to do so with a quick protein boost. As you begin your ascent, you will notice stone statues of kitsune (fox spirits) are a common theme.
Most noticeably, thousands of torii (wooden gates), each adorned with bright vermillion paint, are there o guide you all the way up to the summit. As you climb higher, the path splits into different routes of varying distances, each of them lined with rows of golden torii. Some paths are steeper and more physically taxing than others, but the shining gates make it hard to lose your way.
There aren’t many places on Earth where a serene silence can suddenly give way to a cacophony of raven calls, only to then be supplanted by the softer, more ghostly sound of owls hooting as the sun sets over the western side of the peak. Night and day have wildly different sound palates here. The melodic sound of rushing water harmonizes with the rustling of leaves, creating a soothing sort of natural music that stills the mind and, at least momentarily, relieves it of its worldly anxieties.