No trip to Kyoto is complete without a visit to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. This shrine is my #1 sightseeing recommendation in Kyoto. The reason being not only is it a spectacular view it’s also a magical experience to explore this shrine too. I’ve attempted to write down everything I have learned about this shrine to improve your experience when you visit and answer commonly asked questions. I hope it can help future visitors to Kyoto!
A long time ago I watched the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha” and the scene where a young Sayuri runs through a tunnel of orange gates to make a prayer was imprinted in my memory. I promised myself one day I would see it with my own eyes. When I arrived in Japan and stood looking at the orange tunnel nearly 10 years later, I still remembered how I felt when I first saw it. “This must be a dream,” I thought to myself too stunned to take a step inside. My friend looked back at me, wondering why I had stopped talking and walking. As I slowly stepped under the first gate and into the tunnel that seemed to stretch on towards the heavens, I was very overcome with a wave of emotion. I couldn’t come up with the words to explain to my friend how magical the whole experience was. It was the moment a childhood dream became a reality. Many people I’ve spoken to who have visited this shrine say similar experiences happened to them. I’ve witnessed tourists actually jump for joy when they first see the orange gates and couples hug one another. Clearly I’m not the only one for whom seeing the Fushimi Inari Shrine is a dream come true.
About the Fushimi-Inari Shrine:
The Fushimi-Inari Shrine is a popular shrine for tourists located just outside the city center of Kyoto. It’s most famous for it’s orange gates, filmed in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”, which form a tunnel that tourists may walk through. These gates are called “torii” in Japanese. It is possible to walk under the torii all the way to the top of the sacred Mt. Inari, which is 233m high.
When you first arrive you’ll see the largest torii gate of the Fushimi-Inari Shrine. I think this one of the best photo opportunities so be sure to snap a picture before heading into the shrine.Take you time exploring the main temple grounds, and be sure to take a peak into a tiny temple located on the far right of the main temple area. It has thousands of paper cranes. The hopes and dreams of shrine visitors in a rainbow of offerings is always something I enjoy seeing. According to Japanese legend, if you fold 1000 paper cranes your wish is supposed to be granted. Once you’ve finished exploring the main temple grounds, head up the stairs, and begin your hike through the torii tunnel.
These torii gates, interestingly enough, are all donations by families or companies. On the back of the torii gates you will see written in black kanji the donator’s name and the date it was donated. A small torii is around 400,000 yen as much as 1 million yen!!!!The further up you walk the fewer people you will see and the quieter it will become, the steep slopes effectively weaning out those unfit for the challenge of a climb (*cough cough* the women wearing stilettos never make it very far, never fear). This is where you’ll easily be able to get photos with just you and your companions, the real trick will be waiting for a friendly person to take your picture!
What’s With All The Foxes?!?
By the time you finish exploring the shrine, you may be curious as to why you saw so many statues of foxes. This is because foxes in Japanese culture are regarded as messenger spirits. The Japanese word for fox is “kitsune” and if you look carefully you’ll see many restaurants in this area serving kitsune udon. Don’t be alarmed, it’s not fox noodle soup! Kitsune udon is a delicious dish made with thick udon noodles served in a dashi based soup stock and served with a piece of fried tofu. Kitsune udon is named after the Japanese fox because according to legend fox spirits are big fans of abura-age, the deep fried tofu that gives all the flavour to this great food.
My 6 Tips For Visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine:
- Wear comfortable shoes! I really do mean this, wear running shoes or at least comfy sneakers.
- Budget plenty of time as it’s quite a long walk to the very top.
- Don’t let other people hurry you, walk at a slow pace and savor the moment.
- Be patient taking photos. If you’re patient and wait for the perfect moment you’ll be able to get great solo shots.
- Try and go early in the morning, or towards the end of the day (if possible) as the experience is more magical the fewer the people. If you do, you’ll also be able to get photos in the torii tunnel with only you!
- If you don’t have time to do the entire walk to the top walk as far as you feel comfortable, but be sure to at least reach the beautiful photography point where 2 tunnels appear!
How To Get To Fushimi-Inari Shrine:
There are several ways to get to the Fushimi Inari shrine. I highly recommend traveling by one of the train lines!
- By JR Line: Take the JR Nara Line train from Kyoto station to JR Inari Station (Time: 5 minutes, Price: 140yen, 2 stops later)
- By Private Train Line: From Kyoto Station take the Keihan Line to Fushimi Inari Station
- By Bus: If you have the Kyoto Bus Sighseeing Pass you can access the shrine via the #5 bus from Kyoto Station. (See the map here) *I do not recommend this option as it take far too long compared to a train. It’s worth spending the extra money to get there quickly.*