A visit to Kyoto, Japan would be incomplete without visiting the very colorful Fushimi Inari, located in the South East area of Kyoto. Over the years, this shrine has become a must visit destination not just for the Japanese (the shrine is featured in some popular comics), but also for tourists thanks to movies like “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Samsara”. I just wanted to see some of the 10,000 torii gates in the complex.
Visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine:
It was very easy getting to the shrine which is located at the base of Mt. Inari. We took the JR Nara line directly from the Kyoto central train station. From there, it was just about a ten minute ride to the Inari stop. The train was extremely crowded. We were all headed there. The shrine is almost directly across the street from the station exit. The big red gate welcomes you like it does at most other Japanese temples and shrines. Even though we had seen other shrines, this was still a thrilling one to visit. I have yet to see the movie, but l have seen enough pictures of the torii gates to be intrigued. The Fushimi Inari temple really reminded me of our Asakusa temple visit in Tokyo, but without the pagoda.
Fully exploring the grounds and all the five temples it contains takes approximately 4 hours of walking. Two hours to get up and another two to get back down. We did not do that! :-) . Neither did a lot of the people. You can definitely see enough though going up like 2 sets of gates or so which is what we did. I imagine if you were a hiker, you would love the greenery up there and would be a great experience. Being 233 meters above sea level, it was a relief from the stifling heat of the city.
Fushimi Inari History:
The Hata family dedicated the shrine to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and sake. It dates back to 711 A.D! Agriculture was a big part of the culture and as it diminished, the people prayed to the gods for prosperity. The Fushimi area still does a booming business in rice and sake so l think we can safely say that the prayers are still being answered. One thing l wish we had done also was a sake brewery tour. I am not big on the traditional sake, but l know l would have like some of the fruity and sweet ones. Next time :-) . There are over 32,000 Shinto shrines across Japan, but this is the head shrine. In early Japan, Inari was also a patron of business, worshiped by manufacturers and merchants. Each of the over 10,000 gates (torii) is donated by a business.
Fushimi Inari Shrine Fox:
One thing you will notice while meandering is the presence of stone fox statues. They guard the entrance and are scattered all over the property. The fox is believed to be a messenger of Inari. There is usually a key hanging from their mouth which is for the rice granary.
This torii gates are really something spectacular to see. It was crowded when we went so it was hard to get good pictures without a lot of patience. It’s doable however. Your best bet is to take your pictures of the gates from the exit side as there are pauses in-between people coming out. Best to set your camera and wait for your shot.
The Fushimi Inari shrine is visited by millions yearly and l can’t even imagine how bothersome it is to the people who live in the vicinity. There are houses leading right up to the entrance. The constant noise and people would drive me nuts.
I would allow a fair bit of time to enjoy the scenery, especially the Japanese men and women who are all dressed up as Geishas and Harajuku girls. Going up higher, you can get a feel for what the trails look like. It is so lush and green up there.
There is also a shop on your way out where they sell tons of fox shaped novelty items. Outside of the shrine, there is a whole street food scene which we partook, specifically the octopus balls! Yummy :-). On the whole, l think a visit to the Fushimi Inari is a to do if you visit Kyoto. It is free entry and open 24 hours, which makes it even better :-).
What do you think of this Shinto shrine? Have you seen Memories of a Geisha? If so, do you remember the Fushimi Inari Shrine featured in it? Would you recommend me seeing it or should l give it a miss? Have you perhaps visited it?