Best known for its endless trail of vermilion torii, Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines. It is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, and has attracted pilgrimages and merchants for centuries. These days visitors from all over the world pour into this place to have a stroll through the beautiful holy gates, as well as to pray to the deity for luck and business success.
Situated at the foot of Mount Inari in the southern part of Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) is the headquarter of more than 32,000 shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. For more than 1300 years, people have come to this sacred place to pray the kami for bountiful crops.
They also wish for luck and worldly prosperity. Since the Tokugawa period and onward, Inari was also enrolled as the patron of business enterprises. It was based on the idea that assuring bountiful crops for farmers is relevant to assuring the success of merchants.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Stepping out of the station, the first thing that captured my sight was the vermillion rōmon (楼門, “tower gate”). Donated by the famous general Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1589, this lavishly decorated gate marks the entrance to the Fushimi Inari’s ground.
Behind stands the shrine’s main hall where visitors paid respect to the principal deity. They made some small offerings, such as rice, sake, or fried tofu – the favorite food of Inari’s messengers. The hall was built in 1499 and designated as kanpei-taisha in the 19th century, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government-supported shrines.
The Thousands of Torii
At the very back of the main sanctum is the entrance to the famous torii-covered hiking trail. It starts with two dense, parallel rows of vermillion gates called senbon torii (Thousands of torii), and passes through the okumiya (Inner Shrine) in the middle of the mountain. The trail then winds up to the mountaintop.
All torii along the path are donations of individuals and companies, who want to express gratitude regarding the worshiper’s wish that “will come true” or “did come true”. At present, more than 10,000 torii line the main path of Fushimi Inari, and the custom of donating gates is still practiced today. The gate comes with a heavy price tag, ranging from 400,000¥ for a small torii to over 1,000,000¥ for a large one. However, worshippers with smaller budgets can opt for miniature torii.
The Fox Statues
Almost all Inari shrines, no matter how small, will feature at least a couple of fox statues. It is believed that foxes, especially the pure white ones, are Inari’s messengers and guardians. They are supposedly chosen because they are intelligent as they prey on crop-damaging mice. Their tails also resemble ripe rice plants, symbolizing a close relationship with the Shinto god of rice.
As protectors against evil, the fox statues are usually placed at the entrance of shrines and even on some private altars. They are usually adorned with red yodarekake (votive bibs) and often seen holding a symbolic item in the mouth or the right front paw – most common a key (supposedly to open the granaries), a jewel, a scroll, or a sheaf of rice.
Tips for visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Fushimi Inari Shrine is located just outside JR Inari Station. It’s the second station from Kyoto Station along the local JR Nara Line (5 minutes, 140¥ one way). The shrine can also be reached in a short walk from Fushimi Inari Station along the Keihan Main Line.
- The hike to the mountain peak and back takes more than 2 hours. Nevertheless, visitors are free to walk just as far as they wish before turning back.
- The senbon torii is just behind the main shrine. From there, as you walk toward the summit, you will reach the crossroad where you can have a panoramic view of the entire city of Kyoto.
- Though Fushimi Inari is open 24 hours a day, the hiking path has many steep steps and the lighting is limited at night. Therefore, it’s recommended to visit the shrine during the day.
31 thoughts on “Fushimi Inari: A Stroll through Thousands of Torii”
Great photos! One of my favourite site in Kyoto. My only nightmare is the tour group crowd!
At first, I thought that this place is less popular than Kiyomizu-dera or temples in the city centre. I was wrong 🙂 I remember that we were literally pushed through the senbon torii. It was so crowded that we didn’t have place to move, and the chance to get a human-free photo is zero.
Wonderful photos. I look forward to seeing them for real, later this year.
It’s indeed a magical place! Make sure to be there early so that you don’t have to push through the crowd at Senbon Torii 🙂
Thanks for the tip!!
You welcome! 🙂
That’s why it’s so crowded! 😀 At first, I thought it’s only popular among tourists. But I was wrong. A lot of locals, especially students, came here to wish for luck in the exams.
Fushimi Inari is still after two years of traveling my favorite place in the whole world. (Only a few months and I can visit there again) Your photos truly make it seem beautiful and capture its vibe 🙂
Thanks Viivi! I wish I could be there earlier, so that I could make some human-free photos of the Senbon Torii. When you come back to Fushimi Inari, please send my greetings to the fox guardians 😉
great post! I came to fushimi inari in 2016 in spring and it was crowded that i could hardly take proper pics ;o
Such a pity! When I was there, the Senbon Torii was also full of people. But fortunately, the size of the crowd declined as we climbed higher. So we could make some decent photos at the end 🙂
I wanted to climb higher, but my friend didn’t want to. So I followed her going down when I was still half way up
How unfortunate 🙁 A few more steps and you can have the forest for yourself. After passing the viewpoint, the crowd grew significantly thin.
Whoaaa….. really? Not my lucky day apparently 😅. Thanks for visiting my site!
Such a beautiful Shrine. Unfortunately, we missed it when we were there over 10 years ago now. Would love to see it again one day. Great captures Len. 🙂
Thank you for your compliment! The shrine is definitely a must-see when visiting Kyoto! I guess very few foreign tourists knew about this shrine 10 years ago. Back then, social media was still new, and there was simply too little information about this place (or perhaps they were all in Japanese 🙂 )
Yes. That is so true Len. Social media was not as it is today 10 years ago. Now you see this Shrine on every Insta story! 😉
Great photos indeed! We visited this magical place very early in the morning (we used bikes all throughout Kyoto and that was just perfect to arrive before the crowds). There were hardly any tourists that early and this definitely added an extra dimension to it. Thanks for the article, memories coming back here!
My pleasure! I wish that I could go there earlier. When I was there, the Senbon Torii was full of people. So I have to hike further to have some human-free photos 🙁
You managed well! Such a beautiful hike, well worth the effort of going up 🙂
Hey Len, Great selection for the pathways prompt! I didn’t make it to Inari when I visited, as alluded to by my earlier comment, so I was very grateful to revisit you gorgeous photos again! Thanks for joining in on Friendly Friday Photo Challenge. Hope to see you again in 2 weeks. Snow’s turn to host next week.
My pleasure! I would absolutely participate again when I can find some appropiate photos 🙂 I think that the challenge is a nice way to connecting with other bloggers. Keep up the good job!
Absolutely! I have met some lovely people through blogging. And I am glad I came across your blog.
The same goes for me 😀
Lovely photo report/mini guide, as always, Len! 🙂
Thank you! 😉
Such wonderful photos Len. This was one of my favourite hikes in or near Kyoto. The Torii never get old.
Indeed. I never get tired seeing these gates. Have a lovely Sunday, Alison 🙂
Stunning photos as usual, Len. What an experience it must be walking the hiking trails with all those gates.
It does have some mystical feeling 🙂 Thank you for your compliment, Caroline!