Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (Kyoto) 伏見稲荷大社
One of the oldest shrines in Kyoto, the Fushimi Inari Shrine was voted the Top Thing To Do In Kyoto in 2016. Its seemingly endless row of vermillion torii gates is a signature photo spot for tourists and a symbol of Kyoto. The shrine venerates Inari, the Shinto god of rice, who farmers prayed to for a good harvest, and is now popularly worshipped by businessmen who hope for a bountiful year. It is believed that foxes are the messengers of the gods, which explains the many fox statues throughout the grounds of the shrine.
The tori gates straddle a network of mountain trails of around 4km in length leading up to Mount Inari, which stands at 233m. The hike takes around 2 hours, and there are a few restaurants along the way offering Inari Sushi and Kitsune Udon, featuring aburaage, or fried tofu, said to be a favorite treat of the fox messengers. Each tori gate represents a donation by an individual or company with the cost starting from 400,000 yen for a small gate and over 1 million for a large gate.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is the head shrine of some 32,000 sub-shrines. Its origins predate the move of Japan’s capital to Kyoto in 794. Even amongst non-worshippers the shrine is popular for its scenic beauty especially during the autumn when the leaves provide an azure background to the gates.
Leave a tip
Do not take photos of vendors here at Fushimi Inari or else you will be embarrassingly scolded! Do try to go as early as possible as this is gets very packed starting at 10AM! Phone charms sold at the lower grounds are actually a little cheaper than at the markets.
A must see, but make sure to get here as early as possible, as the crowds grow fast.
If you are up for it hike the pilgrimage trail, or just a part of it. Even just a little ways up, the crowds thin considerably.
If you want solo shots, get there early. Otherwise, I recommend hiking up past the main stretch of gates, because there is so much more to see!
Bamboo groves, ponds, even a tea shop that sells ice cream. The crowds thin the higher you go. Wear good shoes.