How I Was Chased Up Fushimi Inari by Cicadas

Everybody that’s studied abroad in Japan always returns home with lots of amazing stories to tell their friends and family. Cassie Walker, our current student peer adviser and a 2016/17 JCMU alum, has a bunch of her own stories that she’d like to share with you! Below, read about how one trip to Fushimi Inari-taisha didn’t go insect-ly to plan.


Fushimi Inari, with its path of 10,000 torii gates, is one of the most famous shrines in all of Japan. It became my favorite place to visit while at JCMU, and I loved dragging bringing my friends along.

1000 Red Gates
 Torii gates leading up the mountain (Photo by Trey Ratcliff)

My funniest story involving Fushimi Inari is the time me and a friend decided to visit after dark. Turns out, Fushimi Inari doesn’t close its doors at 5pm like other shrines and temples (the stores and building on site do close around this time though), and people are allowed to visit after sunset. If they dare.

So my friend and I take the trek up the mountain, the glowing lanterns lighting our path. The atmosphere was totally different from the daytime, as it now had a very mysterious feel to it. As we passed under a large light post, we heard it: the buzzing of angry cicadas.

Evil
Cicadas are huge, loud, and all over the place in Japan

For some background, I do not like cicadas. I had a very angry, buzzing, one thrown at me while at a festival years back, and have hated them ever since. Thankfully, when not in danger, they are happy to sit in their trees, being annoyingly loud but harmless.

For some reason, these cicadas seemed personally offended at our presence passing under their precious lights. As we heard the buzzing, we started to speed up our walking/climbing (turns out my friend is also mildly afraid of cicadas). When one crashed into my friend’s backpack we were in full-on freak-out mode and started sprinting up through the torii gates.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Fushimi at night (Photo by ESU)

The chase continued to the top viewpoint, our goal for the night. We slowly crept up the steps that led to a semi-secret look-out point behind some small shrines. Of course, this area was not free from our pursuers and we found ourselves winding past stone statues. This would have been the perfect place to be “spirited away” by the fox spirits, but perhaps they found us entertaining and thus allowed us to pass. At the look-out point, the only source of light and sound was from the illuminated city below. Seeing Kyoto as we had never before made us forget about the terror we had felt minutes ago. From the glimmering billboard lights to the tiny trains zooming on their tracks, this was well worth the trip, cicadas or not.

Fushimi Inari 3
View from the “secret” look-out point

After the initial scare and chase, we calmed down and laughed it off. We had hoped for a unique experience, and we got that and more! The rest of the night was spent enjoying the cool evening, taking in the view, and comparing angry cicada to the souls of the damned.

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