Fushimi-Inari Shrine: Land of the Thousand Torii
It’s unimaginable for a tourist that has been to Kyoto but missed Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社), for it is the most important Shinto Shrine in Southern Kyoto. The place is known for its countless redish torii which are spread along the trails going to the woods of Mount Inari with a highest elevation of 233 meters.
Fushimi Inari is dedicated to a Shinto God of rice named Inari. It is said that the shrine has ancient origins, and was built before Kyoto became the capital in 794.
We went there after a short stroll along Kinkakuji Temple. It was afternoon when we got there, but the place was unexpectedly crowdy with tourists.
A huge torii welcomed us upon entering the place. Behind the torii is the Romon Gate that is said to be donated by a famous figure of the 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The place isn’t just all about torii, but also the ancient structures that are worth the visit. Fox statues are also noticeable on some spots of the shrine and is told to be messengers of Inari.
Torii is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found on every Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to sacred. Inari Fushimi Shrine already has 10,000 torii (small gates aren’t even counted). Those torii were donated by companies and individuals, with their names inscribed at their backs. Donating a torii costs from Y400,000 to a hefty Y1,000,000. Usually, the bigger, the costlier. Behind the shrine’s main ground is the entrance to the hiking trail which is also covered by torii. The trail is named as Senbon Torii (thousands of torii gates).
#1 TOURIST SPOT
For three years, Inari Fushimi Shrine has been awarded 1st Prize as the most popular tourist attraction in Japan by Trip Advisor. Being featured in Hollywood movies is a great plus to its popularity to tourists. The deal breaker for being number 1 must be because it’s free, for most of the shrines in Kyoto have entrance fees.
Since it was already late afternoon, we didn’t proceed any further (will take 2-3 hours more to the summit) and went back to where we started. Along the way, there are smaller shrines and stacked miniature torii gates which were donated on a budget by visitors.
Though in just a short time, we really enjoyed strolling along the shrine. It’s a shame that we haven’t reached the top or even waited the evening scenery there (it’s open 24 hours). What is very entertaining for a tourist-on-a-budget like me is that it’s free (hehe). No wonder it is the number 1 tourist spot not only in Kyoto but throughout Japan :).
Fushimi Inari Shrine is located just outside JR Inari Station, the second station from Kyoto Station along the JR Nara Line (5 minutes, 140 yen one way from Kyoto Station, not served by rapid trains). The shrine can also be reached in a short walk from Fushimi Inari Station along the Keihan Main Line.