For the last couple of years this wonderful place has been voted by foreign tourists as the number one site in Japan and it’s quite easy to see why but it hasn’t always been that way for this is actually a fairly recent addition to the essential Kyoto sights. When I first went there though there was hardly anyone around. That was in 2011 and admittedly I was at the place very early morning but even after a couple of hours in the vicinity it was still quite sparsely populated when I left all of the torii gates behind.
This time there was some kind of festival taking place on the streets leading up to the shrine entrance which we watched go by whilst burning under the very strong Golden Week sunshine. The shrine sits at the base of the Mount Inari and trails take you from there through a wooded forest and on up the mountain to many smaller shrines.
Personally, I’m more fascinated by the shrine gates than the shrines themselves and this place is perhaps the ultimate destination for such a sight. Fushimi-Inari first came to my attention in the wake of the film adaptation of ‘Memoirs Of A Geisha‘ (2005) when I started seeking out movie locations as an alternative to the more common tourist traps of cities and countries around the globe.
It’s an extraordinary sight as you walk through the torii gates but sadly it’s very rare to be alone for more than a few seconds on the journey up the mountain. You’ve really gotta be ready to seize the opportunity when it comes your way in the form of a clear path.
On the approach to the main shrine there is naturally (as you’d expect in Japan!) a street lined with stalls selling all kinds of food and souvenir tat; the kind of thing I usually take no interest in but foxes merchandise is a different story altogether! I bought a fair bit of fox-related goods at the fantastic Zao Fox Village in Miyagi a few months ago so didn’t buy much this time other than the white fox hat thing you can see in some of the picture below. For the record, I didn’t wear it whilst walking around but just put it on for a few pictures!
It took us about two hours to get to the top which was longer than I expected but it was a very rewarding journey following the hundreds and hundreds of torii gates that wind up around the mountain and back down in a different direction.
As I said in my Kyoto post recently, I was a little bit apprehensive about the crowds at these popular sights and thought re-visiting Fushimi-Inari might make it less appealing but I’m pleased to say that this beautiful shrine area is still one of my favourite places in all of Japan.
How to get there: Take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto station and Inari station is just two stops away.
Click here to read ‘Memoirs Of A Geisha Filming Locations’
Click here to read ‘Fushimi-Inari Tasiha’ (2011)