What to Expect
Besides the scenic beauty, you can learn the architectural difference between a shrine and a temple in this tour.
(1) Fushimi-Inari-Taisha shrine
According to the legend, Fushimi-Inari-Taisha shrine was founded when God Inari was enshrined on Mt. Inariyama in February, 711. It celebrated the 1300th anniversary of the God`s enshrinement and all the buildings in the ground were restored and re-painted with the vermilion color in 2011.
This shrine is the "So-honzan" head shrine of 30,000 Inari shrines across the country. There are paths called "sen-bon-torii", meaning alleys of tunnels made of 1,000 "torii" gates. Actually, however, it is said there are a total of more than 10, 000 "torii" gates, large and small, in the shrine compound which includes the whole of Mt. Inariyama. You can reach the top of the 233-meter-high mountain, or rather a hill, in about a 1.5-hour walk amid the rich greenery. It is the guardian shrine of merchants and tradesmen, attracting millions of visitors in the New-Year period. Pairs of foxes sitting at the base of "torii" gates are regarded as the messenger of the God.
After getting off the train, walk a bit and go through the huge "torii" gate, walk further on the paved main road and you will be met by the huge shrine building. Then, walk along the unpaved narrow paths which are inside the tunnel of "torii" gates according to the instructions of the signboards. There are many vermilion-colored buildings on your way, souvenir shops and small stalls selling charms. You can sit on the sides of the paths and enjoy chatting with your companions or have snacks. There are some places which command a fine view of the city of Kyoto below.
(2) Tofukuji temple
Established during the Kamakura period (1192 to 1333) of Japan, the name of this Zen Buddhist temple was derived from the two major temples in Nara: Todaiji temple and Kofukuji temple. There are many buildings in the temple precincts, but particularly notable are the three structures. They are: "Hondo" Main Hall, which is open to the public only in the three-day period of March 14, 15 and 16 each year, displaying the left hand of the Great Buddha; Tsutenkyo Bridge, where you can see thick leaves of trees on both sides, leading to Kaisendo Hall, where you can enjoy the atmosphere of the beautiful landscaped garden with a pond and a sand garden; and "Hojo" Hall, which is surrounded by the four representative Zen gardens consisting of rocks and sand.
Having the status as the World Cultural Heritage Site, the construction of this temple got started toward the end of the eighth century after the capital of Japan was moved to Kyoto from Nara. After having studied in China for two years, the Venerable "Kobo-Daishi", or "Kukai", was given this temple in 823. He wished that the peace of the nation will be maintained through the teachings of Buddhism whose light reaches every corner of the world and that individual thought will coexist without infringing on each other through the cooperation of all the people.
The four main structures of this temple, namely, "Kondo", "Kodo", "Jikido" halls and the 55-meter-high five-storied pagoda were destroyed by typhoons, fires, lightnings and other natural disasters many times since their coming into being in the early 9th century. The reconstruction of these buildings as they stand now were completed in the period between 1492 and 1644. On the 21st of each month, which is called "Kobo-san" and is the monthly return of the date of the demise of the Venerable "Kobo-daishi ", more than 1,000 stalls are installed where you can buy various kinds of antiques and souvenirs. There are more than 200,000 visitors on this day alone. There are 21 Buddhist statues in the" Kodo" Hall, 15 in "Kondo" Hall and many others in the five-storied pagoda, whose door is opened only on that memorable day each month.