In many train stations in Japan, you’ll find great pictures of different locations around Japan, enticing you to visit them. One of the most famous, and most impressive of those pictures is the scene below.
This is Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, which has been around since the 8th century AD.
It is the head shrine of Inari, which is a Japanese god of fertility, industry, and other things. The other thing this place is famous for is for its 1000 torii (red gates).
One of the key characteristics of Inari worship is the significance of foxes (kitsune), regarded as messengers of Inari. Statues of foxes can be found throughout Inari shrines, in locations usually reserved for other animals.
This shrine is actually a set of shrines built on a mountain. At the bottom of the mountain is the main shrine. There is a path through the mountain, passing through several smaller shrines and thousands of private worship areas.
One thing many tourists, including most Japanese people, do not realize is that if you want to go through the entire shrine, it is a 2.5 hour mountain hike!
Entrance of Fushimi Inari Taisha
Kitsune figures can be seen throughout the shrine
Gate to the main shrine
In other Japanese shrines, the entrance to a shrine is guarded by dogs. In Inari shrines, they are guarded by kitsune (foxes).
The left hand one is the female.
The right hand one is the male.
The red gates start…
Here is the inner entrance… and the hiking begins.
The map clearly states that this is a 2.5 hour long mountain hike, but most people do not stop to read the map before starting out.
There are small shrines along the way
And smaller places where people can privately worship.
The kitsune are everywhere!
Finally at the top!
(It seriously did take me about 2 hours to get to the top. Then, of course, you need to get down)
It was a good, long hike. Definitely wear layers, bring water, and bring some candy for a quick burst of energy. I would also advise not going in the middle of summer or winter because the weather in Kyoto can become quite extreme.
Notice the writing on the torii (red gates)? They are only visible from the back side. These are the names of the companies/individuals who contributed money for each torii. There is a separate price for the different sizes.
Hope you enjoyed this overview of Fushimi Inari Taisha, the head shrine of Inari and home of the 1000 torii gates. If you do decide to visit when you come to Kyoto, remember to be prepared for the 2.5 hour mountain hike!