Exploring The Fushimi Inari Shrine In Kyoto
Kyoto is home to thousands of religious sites in all shapes and sizes. Each is special and unique in their own way. It is difficult to single out one or two as the very best, but if you have to pick one, Fushimi Inari Shrine is the answer for most people. It has become a big tourist attraction and pilgrimage for its religious significance, natural beauty, and having roughly 10,000 torii gates on the premises.
Fushimi Inari Shrine was founded back in 711. It is dedicated to Inari, the God of rice and is the head shrine of over 30,000 shrines located throughout Japan. You are greeted by a giant torii gate, which will soon become a reoccurring theme. Behind the torii gate is a Roman gate, which dates back to the late 1500’s. Behind this is the Honden, which is the main hall. It dates back to 1499 and five deities are enshrined within its walls.
The primary draw is the hiking trails located behind the main hall. The shrine sits on Mt Inari. The entrance is at the base of the mountain with trails winding all the way up to the top. As you head up the trails there will be a three things in abundance. Torii gates, statues of foxes, and trees.
The vermilion red color of the torii gates was chosen to represent the bountiful harvest of Inari, although it is also a common color used in shrines to ward off evil forces. It is difficult to get your mind around seeing 10,000 torii gates in one location, even after being there. They appear to go on infinitely. The gates are donated by wealthy people and companies. The cost for donation begins at 400,000 yen for a small one and large ones are north of one million yen. For many it is a small price to pay for the good fortune it is said to bring. The name of the donator appears on the gate itself. Those with much smaller budgets can donate mini tori gates which appear in sub shrines along the hiking route.
Foxes are said to be the messengers of Inari. There are hundreds of statues dedicated to them all over the grounds. The heavily forested mountain combined with the torii gates and statues makes the trails a peaceful pleasant experience to get in a good relaxing hike.
The trail begins with two rows of torii gates called Senbon Torii. You are welcome to walk a short distance to get a sense of the place and those willing can make the entire trek to the top. The hike to the top of the trail takes 2-3 hours on average and you gain approximately 750 feet in elevation during the climb. A popular stopping point is the Yotsutsuji intersection. It is about halfway up and has a nice view of the city below.
Visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine is easy to get to. From Kyoto Station take the JR Nara line two stops to the JR Inari Station. The entrance is located right outside the station. Be sure to buy some tsujiura senbei. They are said to bring good fortune and are considered the inspiration to the fortune cookie. The shrine is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week and admission is free.