Famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, Fushimi Inari Shrine is the most important spiritual ground dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Most tourists come to Fushimi Inari Shrine to follow the mountain path through the wooded forests of the Mountain Inari.
The hiking trail starts with two dense rows of torii gates. You can go through either of them as they both lead to the same place. The first part of the trail is always very busy with tourists as that's where everyone tends to take pictures. Don't get disappointed and carry on, you will find a lot of secluded areas with no tourists around, especially if you decide to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine at night.
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What are the torii gates
A torii gate is said to be the division between the physical and spiritual worlds. You will encounter thousands of torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine. All torii gates along the path have been donated by either individuals or companies. The inscription on the back of the gates represents the name of the donor, alongside their wish of health, wealth or happiness.
Best time to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine
The best times to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine is either first thing in the morning or late in the evening. The place gets really crowded by 10 am, so you might want to get to the bottom of the mountain by 7 - 8 am. We first visited during the evening, at around 6 pm. It was really relaxing to hike at twilight. The path was pretty much empty, only a few tourists scattered here and there. We found plenty of spots for photographic opportunities and lots of small shrines along the way. In early December the sun sets early, so we stopped along the way to enjoy a very lovely sunset over Kyoto. It was fully dark by the time we finished the trail.
Another popular (and recommended option) is to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine at night. It's a walk through dark forests so perhaps not the best option for the pigeon-hearted. We went to Fushimi Inari after 10 pm during winter, and we found our walk to be quiet and very relaxing. Have a couple of flashlights and don't pay attention to the jumbo spiders scattered all around the place. It's an exhilarating experience and I most certainly recommend you try this.
How long to spend at Fushimi Inari Shrine
The return hike takes about 2-3 hours. There are a lot of small shrines along the way with mini torii gates donated mainly by tourists. It's nice to take the time to admire the surroundings and catch your breath too. Half of the journey is uphill, as you ascent on Mount Inari, hence I suggest bringing plenty of snacks with you. If you visit at peak times, you can find a few open restaurants although the prices are quite high. There are vending machine along the path too, which means you can buy yourself a bottle of hot tea or cold water.
Catch the perfect Fushimi Inari Sunset
After about half an hour hike, you will reach the Yotsutsuji intersection. The Yotsutsuji intersection is pretty much half way up the mountain. Here, you can enjoy some outstanding views over Kyoto. This is also the perfect spot to catch the Fushimi Inari sunset. Here is how to do it: Type "kyoto sun set" into Google. Time your arrival to the Fushimi Inari Shrine accordingly and remember it takes about 30-45 minutes to reach the Yotsutsuji intersection where you will capture the perfect sunset over Kyoto.
What are the foxes at Fushimi Inari Shrine
You will see many fox (kitsune) statues along the path and that's because foxes are meant to represent Inari's messengers. Some kitsune at the Fushimi Inari Shrine will have a key in their mouth (for the rice granary), others will have more than one tails. The more tails a fox has, the wiser, older and more powerful it is meant to be. The red scarves around foxes' necks are meant to be expelling demons and illness. By wearing red, it's a clear indication these kitsune are Inari followers.
How to go to Fushimi Inari Shrine
Take the train along the JR Nara Line and get off at the Inari Station, the second station from Kyoto. Fushimi Inari Shrine is just a short walk away from the train station. Should you visit during day time, you will find several street food vendors selling delicious treats and matcha sweets. I suggest trying as many Japanese magical street foods as you can.
When did you visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine? What did you like most about it? Tell me about your experience it in the comments section below.