Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) is known as the Fox Shrine and renown for the thousands of vermillion torii gates lining the walkways. It is dedicated to Inari, the shinto god of rice. Foxes are Inari’s messengers and that’s why they’re everywhere at Inari.
A ton of posts have been written about this magical place, but I want to share my own take on it.
Cost of admission: FREE
Hours of Operation: ANYTIME
How To Get There: FIVE MINUTES FROM KYOTO STATION BY THE JR NARA LINE TO INARI STATION
Fushimi Inari’s popularity has exploded in the past few years. If you come at the busy times (especially on holidays) the crowds at the torii gates will crush you. You shuffle at a snail’s pace. It’s not that fun.
All your attempted photos will be full of selfie sticks and the tops of people’s heads. It’ll get better once you’re midway up… maybe.
I recommend getting here early. The morning is best on a sunny day for good lighting.
Shots without people are only possible outside of the busy time.
When I first travelled to Kyoto in 2009, Fushimi Inari seemed an off-the-beaten path destination. Back then, it was like this even during the day. Word got out and now it suffers from overwhelming crowds that take away from the experience.
(According to stats, 2.6 million people came here for the three days of New Year’s celebrations in 2006. Don’t go here around New Year’s Day. Massive, massive crowds.)
Nevertheless, it is still a special place full of charm.
Parts of the path are illuminated at night. I came once at night (before they started lighting it up) and found it eerie and spooky.
The foxes (kitsune) often have a key in their mouth which depicts their access to the rice granary since they serve as messengers to Inari. Each of the torii is made in thanks for a wish that came true or in hopes of one coming true. There are now over 10,000.
Built by wishful thinking
Fushimi Inari makes a brief cameo in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”:
The hike to the top takes almost an hour depending on crowds and almost an hour coming back down. Since you can come at any time of day I recommend making this your first stop in Kyoto. Afterwards, you’re free to visit Arayashima or any other sites in Kyoto.
The top of the shrine is nothing special. My husband and I passed by without even knowing. Later, when I asked, “How much further to the top?” my husband replied, “About twenty minutes ago”. I stopped dead in my tracks with a “Eeeeh? That was the top?”
This is why I have no photo of the top of the shrine. Oops.
I like Fushimi Inari. I find it hard to say why. Normally, I’m not a fan of tourist hotspots (I like nice places that few know about), but I always recommend it anyway. If you can go when there few people, you’ll see what I mean. It’s photogenic and there is an atmosphere that is just beautiful.
Go night or day. Each time of day shifts the experience. It fits easily into any schedule and it’s free.
Just try to go when the crowds aren’t squeezing through the gates. This is a place that feels special and makes you feel like you’re entering another world.