Wearing Kimono @ Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)

Friday, 9 February 2018



When I was in High School, I absolutely loved the film "Memoirs of a Geisha" starring Zhang Ziyi and Ken Watanabe—especially the scene where young Chiyo is seen running along thousands of torii gates (鳥居) to make a wish. (It is probably the most memorable scene for me in the movie!) The cinematography was absolutely stunning and even though it was a very short scene, it was a truly defining moment, story-wise, for Chiyo who finds her purpose in life: to become a Geisha and to meet the Chairman again. So when I found out that Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) was where they filmed that scene, I was super excited that I could finally see in person one of my "must visit" places in Japan.



Like we wore hanbok (한복) in Korea, I also wanted to experience wearing kimono (きもの) for a whole day while we were in ancient city of Kyoto. We decided to wear kimono on a Monday, where it's supposedly less crowded (in comparison to Friday-Sunday), at Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Higashiyama District (東山区). I've been told that it's not easy to walk around with wooden shoes, called geta (下駄), so I limited our itinerary only 2 locations that day.



We rented our kimono from the Gion-Shijo store (祇園四条店) of Kyoto Kimono Rental Wargo (京都きものレンタル). They have about 10 branches in Kyoto, but we picked the one that was the easiest to travel to and from the shrine, limiting as much public transport as possible. Sharon and I both choose the Premium Kimono Plan for ¥5,184 each (including tax and an hairstyling option for ¥900), which is about AUD$60.

We arrived at the kimono rental store at 10:00am, and it took us about 1 hour to get dressed and have our hair done. (It's slightly more expensive if you wish to book an earlier time.) I've been meaning to cut my hair short again, but I purposely left it long (past shoulder length) to ensure I had enough hair to braid.The ladies who dressed us were very friendly and patient, and could also speak in English. I always knew that a kimono had many layers, but I didn't realise how detailed each garment was until I was completely dressed in one. ★Tip: A kimono is very tight, so make sure you breathe OUT to contract your chest. If you breathe IN like they tell you to, your breathing may be slightly restricted.



Once we stepped out of the store, we went to catch the subway to Fushimi Inari Shrine. We arrived around 11:30am and it was already buzzing with people, and before we even reached the start of the torii gates, Sharon and I already lost count of the amount of times we were asked to take pictures with people. Some tourists would even ask politely Japanese, and Sharon would answer in English with her full Aussie accent. (Haha!) There was one time when we asked another tourist to take a photo for us in front of some torii gates and that somehow attracted other tourists to take photos of us as well. We basically ended up blocking that set of the gates for a few minutes!





Sitting at the base of Mt. Inari (稲荷山), Fushimi Inari Shrine is best known for their long trail of torii gates leading up the summit, and their foxes. Foxes are said to be the God of Rice, Inari's (稲荷大神) messengers, so not only you will find many statutes foxes inside and outside the shrine, but souvenirs with a fox motif almost everywhere.



Honestly, the red-orange torii gates were nothing short of beautiful. Not only were they visually stunning and mesmerising to look at, as we ascended higher towards the top of mountain, it was extremely peaceful and calming to just walking through them.



Originally, I wanted to hike up Mt. Inari, which apparently it takes about 2 hours, but I gave up almost instantly after putting on our kimono. Unlike Sharon who managed walk quite freely in her kimono, I could to take very small steps and could only walk up one step and at time on stairs. Thankfully, the wooden shoes weren't too difficult to walk in—comfort wise—because we in our kimono a good 7 hours!









I absolutely loved the colour of my kimono, but next time, I think I'm going to choose a plain one with a simple pattern and maybe have my hair styled to mimic a fringe of some sort. With the hair piece, always get a bigger one. I thought I'd go for a simple clip to balance out the bold colours of my kimono, but it actually looked better with a bigger clip like Sharon's.





We started to head down the mountain at around 2:00pm and left the shrine shortly afterwards to grab lunch at a popular handmade udon shop called Kendoya (手打うどん けんどん屋). However, when we arrived (at around 2:25pm), they had already closed the restaurant and weren't taking any new customers. Their opening hours were 11:00am to 2:30pm and 5:00pm to 8:00pm, but we didn't want to stick around for another 2 and a half hours so we just found a café across the street and had lunch there instead.







Unfortunately, I didn't take down the name of the café but we both got cutlet or tonkatsu (豚カツ). Sharon got a beef one, while I got a chicken one. After walking for about 3 and a half hours, let's just say that it felt really good to finally sit down. We sat by the window and even though the café was on Level 2, it was perfect for people watching.







Finishing lunch, we went to buy some souvenirs and I even got a little paper love fortune, called koimikuji (恋みくじ), for ¥100 just before we left Fushimi Inari. After that, we headed over to the Higashiyama District to take a few more photos and then to return our kimono at the rental shop.







As happy as we were to change back into our own clothes at the end of the day, I absolutely loved wearing a kimono while sightseeing one of the most picturesque and famous shrines in Japan. I mean, what better way to explore Kyoto than to wear a traditional kimono to fully immerse yourself in the cultural experience? So if you're debating whether or not to wear a kimono, or yukata (浴衣) in summer, I'd say do it—you won't regret it.





Crossing the Shijo Bridge (四条大橋) almost daily, we've been eyeing the restaurants by Kamo River (鴨川) for a few days by then, and that night, we finally decided to have dinner there. We walked up and down Pontocho (先斗町) first, which is one of Kyoto's atmospheric dining alleys, and eventually decided on a restaurant called Izumoya (いづもや).



I can't remember exactly what we ordered, but we got a set course and a mini kaiseki (懐石), a traditional Japanese tasting course, to share. Most kaiseki would cost about AUD$100 per person, so we thought getting a mini one for about a fraction of the price was a pretty good deal since we both wanted to try it. (My memory is a bit vague as to the price.) I loved how detailed each item was on the menu and how beautifully each dish was presented. The food was good taste-wise (albeit not very memorable), and the portions were reasonable. Although we didn't get a riverside view, the ambience of the restaurant was cosy and comfortable. The perfect end to a long and tiring day.













Kyoto Kimono Rental Wargo - Gion-Shijo Store (京都きものレンタル - 祇園四条店)
Gionshijo Jissai Building 3F, 7 Yamato-cho, Shijoohji Kudaru Nishigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto 605-0075
605-0075京都市 東山区 四条大和大路 下る西側大和町7祇園四条十彩ビル3階

Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)
68 Fukakusa Yabunouchi-cho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto 612-0882
612-0882 京都市 伏見区 深草薮之内町68番地

Izumoya (いづもや)
173-2 Kashiwaya-cho, Shijo Agaru, Pontocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto 604-8014
612-0882 京都市 中京区 先斗町通四条上ル柏屋町173-2

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