Sunday, April 14, 2019

Summit Number 100 . . . Sort of.

-- Susan, every other Sunday

One year ago last week, I finished chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, and one month later (eleven months ago, almost to the day) I uprooted my life in the United States and moved to Japan to attempt to climb 100 Japanese mountains in a single year.

Today, I climbed what would have been the 100th mountain on my list . . .

No, not this one. Though I did this one already too.

. . . except that I climbed it earlier this year. Since I already stood on the summit once, I don't get to count the peak again (although I suspect that climbing it twice does make it count as a 500-meter summit instead of a 250-meter one).

The mountain in question also happens to be one of my favorites: Mt. Inari.

Foxes (or, more properly, kitsune) are Inari's messengers in Japan

This small but important mountain stands in Fushimi, just south of Kyoto, and is home to Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Main gate, Fushimi Inari Shrine

The shrine is dedicated to Inari, a popular Shintō deity best known as the patron kami of rice, fertility, sake, swords, and foxes (though that's not a definitive list). As the largest of the thousands of Inari shrines in Japan, Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shrine) is an important site of Shintō worship.

It's also a well-known tourist attraction, drawing thousands of Japanese and foreign visitors alike, in part because of the thousands of bright vermillion torii (sacred Shintō gates) that line the slopes of the mountain, connecting the worship halls at the bottom with a number of sub-shrines and the sacred summit of Mt. Inari.

Torii on the slopes of Mt. Inari

While most visitors remain near the lower levels of the mountain, touring the worship halls and sub-shrines on more level ground,

Subshrines - no climbing required

my friend Laura and I headed up through the thousands of torii, climbing more than fifty flights of stairs on our way to the summit shrine.

At the summit of Mt. Inari

And, because what goes up must come back down, we returned the way we came.

More torii. More stairs. More mountains.

Despite my six previous visits to the shrine, I always find something new and interesting to see on Mt. Inari. Hundreds of guardian statues line the slopes. While most are foxes, guardian lions also abound.

Not a fox in any sense of the word.

As do a variety of different sizes and styles of torii, some of the older ones even made of stone.

Wood and stone torii on Mt. Inari.

Today's hike served as a warmup for tomorrow's "soft 100" climb -- another mountain I'd also normally consider far too small to qualify as one of my hundred peaks. (In fact, it may not have a peak, per se, at all.) However, its historical importance makes it worth climbing--and, weather permitting, I'll follow tomorrow's climb with another, higher summit on Monday morning, finishing the climbs for good.

Only a lawyer would do the final climb in triplicate.

But least soon I'll be back to blogging about people killing each other, instead of about the mountains killing me.

Cherry blossoms on Mt. Inari - a wonderful celebration of the spring.

Have a wonderful and restful Sunday!


  1. Beautiful photos. And congratulations on attaining Ivory climbing status—99 44/100% purely there. (Talk about showing my age and the impact of advertising jingles on one’s memory bank.)

  2. I am celebrating you today, Susan. You are my model of heroine. I am so proud to call you my friend.

  3. An amazing feat to climb 100 mountains in Japan within a year, especially as a way to move on with your life.

    What happened to those lovely seahorses?

  4. Wishing you health and happiness. Mountains have the power to invigorate!