Photo By: Elin Chow
No trip to Kyoto is complete without visiting the Fushimi Inari Taisha. This is one of the most popular sightseeing spot in Kyoto. After a quick lunch at our Kyoto Airbnb apartment, we headed out to Fushimi Inari Taisha.
If you are taking the JR train, the Inari Station is the second station from Kyoto Station along the JR Nara Line. However, please note that there is a number of express trains operating on the JR Nara Line and these trains does not stop at Inari Station. To get to Inari Station, you will have to take a local train. The one way fare from Kyoto Station to Inari Station is 140 Yen.
The train from Kyoto Station to Inari Station is surprisingly packed, with both Japanese and foreigners heading to the same destination.
Even though its official opening hours is from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Fushimi Inari Taisha is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Visitors are free to visit the Shrine at any time of the day, even after wee hours. However, the entire place does gets a little eerie after dark. It is best that you bring along a companion and torchlight if you are planning to visit after dark. Furthermore, all the restaurants would be closed after 5.00 pm, so it will be impossible for you to get any food if you visit after the official opening hours. Entry is free of charge.
Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the important shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, sake and business prosperity. Foxes (Kitsune) are believed to be messenger of Inari and this is also why you will find hundreds of stone fox statues scattered across the shrine's grounds. These fox statues typically come in pairs, representing a male and a female.
Standing at the entrance of Fushimi Inari Taisha is the two-storied Romon gate, which was donated by in 1589 by the famous leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Of all the Romon gates that you will find at shrines in the city of Kyoto, this one is the oldest and largest.
Passing through the Romon gate, you will see the main shrine. Locals visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha to pray for success and prosperity in business, especially at the start of the new year. Try to visit as early as you could for a more tranquil experience. The best time to visit is either early in the morning or late in the evening.
At the back of the Romon gate, you will find two parallel rows of Vermilion colored Torii gates. Both paths eventually lead to the same place so you can enter from either left or right tunnel of Torii gates. Torii is a gateway to a sacred ground and usually you will find this at the entrance of a Shinto Shrine.
Some ten thousands Vermilion Torii gates wind through the wooded forest of the sacred 223 metres high Mount Inari. It was a very impressive sight. Simply google Fushimi Inari Taisha and I believe most pictures you will see will be the seemingly endless rows of vermilion colored Torii gates. The tunnel of vermilion Torii gates are undoubtedly the most iconic landmark of Kyoto. This is also what attracts the hordes of tourists to Fushimi Inari Taisha.
We began our walk through the tunnel vermilion Torii gates leading uphill. There were way too many people at the beginning for it to be enjoyable. It was nearly impossible to have a picture taken without having anyone else in the frame.
Each torii gates is donated by a company or organization giving thanks for their prosperity and good fortune. People who have been successful in business are said to often donate Torii gates to an Inari Shrine to express gratitude to the deity of the shrine.
You will find the donor's name and date of donation inscribed on the back of each gate. If you would like to donate, a small sized gate cost around 400,000 Yen and a large sized gate can cost over a million Yen.
The entire trail comprises of slopes and stone staircases, so it will be best to equipped yourself with comfortable walking shoes. Unfortunately, this part of the attraction is not accessible by wheelchair or stroller. People with mobility issues might find the staircases extremely challenging.
There are so much to do and see at Fushimi Inari Taisha. To sufficiently explore the attraction, I suggest you allocate at least 3 hours for this visit.
The hike to the summit and back takes about 3-4 hours, depending on your pace. Reaching the top will reward you with the spectacular view over the city of Kyoto. But unfortunately, not many tourists actually take the effort to reach the summit.
Of course, you do not have to walk all the way up. In fact, you are given the option to turn back any time you wish. All along the way, you will see multiples of small shrines and altars, some with lit candles and burnt incense as offerings.
Inside the smaller shrines, you will find stacks of miniature torii gates that were donated by people with a smaller budget.
Other than the small shrines and altars, you will also find a few restaurants along the way for tired visitors to take a break and replenish your energy. Most of the restaurants serves tofu-specialties such as Inari Sushi and Kitsune Udon. Aburaage fried tofu is said to be the favorite food of foxes.
There are vending machines everywhere in the mountains too. Just make sure you bring enough coins with you so that you can buy yourself a bottle of hot tea or cold water anytime you wish. But there are no rubbish bins anywhere in the mountains. Please bring all your rubbish with you until you see a rubbish bin. Do not throw them anywhere in the mountains!
Walking through the tunnel of Torii gates, it felt as though we had been transported hundreds of years back time.
I have no idea how long we have climbed. But we did not hike to the top of the mountain because we were running out of stamina. Furthermore, we did not sleep much during our 7 hours overnight flight to Osaka, thus we were feeling really tired.
Fushimi Inari Taisha has some beautiful autumn leaves, offering plenty of stunning photo opportunities.
Occasionally, you will also see young girls dressed in traditional Kimonos, taking photographs of each other. It was a very lovely sight!
Near the entrance, you will find a cobbled side street lined with restaurants, souvenir shops and food stalls. This would be a great place to try some delicious Japanese street food and pick up souvenirs for your family and friends.
Walking through the thousands of Torii gates gave me a sense of peacefulness and quietude. Fushimi Inari Taisha is definitely a must see destination for those visiting Kyoto. After three hours, I left Fushimi Inari Taisha with the feeling that I had not seen enough. I told myself someday, I will be back and when that happens, I will make sure I hike all the way to the top.
If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 7 days in Japan. For anyone planning your first trip to Japan but have no idea where to start, you should read my "How To Plan A Trip To Japan" post.