Climbing the Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) , in Kyoto
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Climbing the Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) , in Kyoto

26 Sep 2019 TRAVEL

By David O’Sullivan 

The morning was spent at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice and saki. It’s an amazing place, dating back centuries and consists of an impressive Shrine and hiking trails leading up a steep hill to another Shrine at the top. The trails are straddled by thousands of orange poles or “torii gates” all the way up the hill. There is so much to learn about the paths and the poles, so please let Google enlighten more accurately than I can.

All I will tell you is that the path to the higher Shrine is steep, has many places to stop at incredible smaller shrines and cemeteries to recover your breath, offers amazing views over Kyoto, takes about 2 hours to climb if there aren’t hundreds of tourists taking selfies on the way, does not have rubbish bins so you have to carry your empty bottles of water with you, and is well worth the visit.

I am a great example of fit and fat, so I attacked the trail with too much enthusiasm. I forgot about the humidity which soon had the sweat gushing. I decided to approach the climb in the same way mountaineers approach Everest. I gave myself a cut-off time as I needed to get back to my hotel in time for the radio show (12h45 in Kyoto for a 05h45 start in Joburg). That was my excuse for not getting to the top. Not the fact that I was quite knackered.

I stuck it out for just over an hour and then turned back because I was wheezing badly. My heart rate (yep, I had a heart rate monitor) showed I was on the verge of a heart attack at 166 beats per minute at my most strenuous. To be fair, I was also close to the cut-off time.

My colleagues, Kaya FM MD Greg Maloka and Head of Marketing Brenda Modibane carried on up to the top. They later told me that, had I continued slogging up for another 20 minutes, I would have reached the main Shrine. I wonder if the stretcher bearers would have found me.

I drank many bottles of water on the route to keep hydrated. There are no rubbish bins anywhere in Japan and certainly not on the Fushimi Shrine trail, so I carried them all down with me. I had so many empty bottles that people must have thought I had cleared the upper slopes of all the debris.

I got back to the hotel with 5 minutes to spare before going on air, pouring with sweat and having burned 1620 calories (I thought you should know) in 75 minutes. I had to have a shower during the news and the first song. It did little to cool me down.

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In the evening the KayaFM team had a group dinner at a fabulous restaurant where we indulged in Wagyu beef, which we cooked (braaied?) at our table.

A fitting way to end a memorable trip. And then we rounded it off with a visit to another hole-in-the-wall pub which are all over the back alleys of our district in Kyoto.

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Tomorrow we have a morning of shopping and then we catch the Bullet Train to Osaka, a flight to Hong Kong, and a flight home. I may sleep the entire way.