Japan is home to countless attractions that look absolutely stunning in pictures. Among the most popular ones is the vermilion tunnel consisting of thousands of torii gates – an iconic element of the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Brief History of the Fushimi Inari Shrine
Of course, the Fushimi Inari Shrine (also known as the Fushimi Inari-Taisha) does not primarily serve as a place for visitors to take Instagram worthy shots. It dates back to the year 711 when its earliest structures were built. It was only in 1499 that the main shrine was constructed at the foot of the hill.
It is dedicated to the god of sake and rice known as Inari. As Japan shifted from being an agriculturally inclined country to being an industrialized nation, the Fushimi Inari Shrine remained significant by becoming a place where individuals could pray for success and prosperity.
At present, the Fushimi Inari Shrine stands among more than thirty thousand other shrines dedicated to Inari and serves as the head shrine (sohonsha).
The Entrance of the Fushimi Inari Shrine
Even just the entrance to the grounds of the Fushimi Inari Shrine is stunning enough to satisfy the photography cravings of tourists. The majority of the entrance features a vivid red color which becomes even livelier with its intricate, golden details and ornaments.
As with the many other temples and shrines in Kyoto, the actual shrine does not serve as the main attraction. Instead, what makes a trip to the Fushimi Inari Shrine memorable is the many structures scattered throughout the path that stretches on beyond the shrine.
Going on a Walk/Hike Through the Torii Gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine
The complex of the Fushimi Inari Shrine covers a large part of Mount Inari. The thousands of torii gates that make up the vermilion tunnel of the Fushimi Inari Shrine were each donated by different local companies as a means to bring in some good luck into their respective businesses. New gates continue to be added to the tunnel as years go by.
Although the tunnel of torii gates is the primary attraction many visitors look forward to, there are several other hiking trails available for tourists to explore. However, it should be noted that going on a hike up the summit is not an easy task.
To reach the top and come back down to the main shrine, around 3-4 hours of relatively mild hiking would have to be endured. Of course, the numerous structures and breathtaking views make it worthwhile.
For those planning to explore the trails in the summer, it is highly recommended that light and loose clothing be worn as it can get quite hot throughout the climb. Fortunately, there are plenty of small shrines situated on the mountain for tourists to rest and purchase some snacks or drinks. Some restaurants can also be found along the trails.
Tourists are not required to finish the hiking trails they choose to explore and may simply turn back any time they want to. However, it is advised that the 30 to 45-minute hike up to the Yotsutsuji Intersection be accomplished in order to enjoy breathtaking views of Kyoto.
The Fox Statues of the Fushimi Inari Shrine
Other than small shrines and vermilion structures, tourists can also expect to come across numerous fox statues while exploring the shrine’s vicinity.
According to Shinto belief, the fox serves as the primary messenger of Inari. As such, most of the statues scattered throughout the complex can be seen holding an object in their mouth. Common things held by the statues include a scroll, a sheaf of rice, a key, and a jewel.
Best Times to Visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine – Before 10 AM, At Sunset, and At Night
The Fushimi Inari Shrine receives millions of visitors throughout the year. In fact, during the New Year’s Day celebrations of Japan which last for three days, about two million worshipers go to the shrine to pray for a good year ahead.
Although other days of the year may not feature such large crowds, foreign travelers are advised to take note of the following hours considered to be the best times to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine:
Before 10:00 AM
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is open 24/7. As such, it is highly recommended that tourists go to the complex before the clock strikes 10 to avoid large crowds. In addition, taking a morning hike up the summit is often more pleasant than in the afternoon.
During Sunrise or Sunset
For those who want to get dramatic shots of the complex, the best times to visit would be during sunrise and sunset. At these hours, the vermilion gates and structures of the shrine look even more alive and vivid.
Visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine at night is a great option, even for those who are not avid fans of the dark. The place features enough light all throughout the tunnel of torii gates and hiking trails to make visitors feel safe, regardless of whether or not they are exploring the complex with a friend.
Furthermore, the atmosphere at the Fushimi Inari Shrine during the evening is significantly more tranquil than it is in the morning or afternoon.
Other Branches of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Japan – Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka, Etc.
At present, there are more than 30,000 shrines in Japan which are dedicated to Inari. Each shrine is headed by the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto and undeniably worth visiting. Some of the notable Inari shrines that tourists should consider taking a trip to include:
Fushimi Inari Shrine – Sapporo, Hokkaido
Kasama Inari Shrine – Kasama, Ibaraki
Namiyoke Inari Shrine – Chuo, Tokyo
Takodani Inari Shrine – Tsuwano, Shimane
Takekoma Inari Shrine – Iwanuma, Miyagi
Yakyu Inari Shrine – Higashimurayama, Tokyo
Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine – Chuo-ku, Osaka
Takahashi Inari Shrine - Kumamoto
Shiwa Inari Shrine – Shiwa, Iwate
Takayama Inari Shrine – Tsugaru, Aomori
Yutoku Inari Shrine – Kashima, Saga
Basic Facts/Information about the Fushimi Inari Shrine – Map & Access, Hours, Address, Etc.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is situated right in front of the Inari Station of the JR Nara Line. Using this route, the shrine can be reached from the Kyoto Station in just 5 minutes. A one-way trip costs about 140 yen per person.
For those who want to warm up for the hike ahead, the Fushimi Inari Shrine can also be reached by taking a short walk from the Fushimi Inari Station of the Keihan Main Line.
As previously mentioned, the complex is open 24/7. To top it all off, the Fushimi Inari Shrine does not require visitors to pay any entrance fees.
Given the countless attractions located in Kyoto, tourists are advised to spend at least a couple of days in the city. Tourist information/guide centers can be located at most stations in Japan where foreign travelers can get some help in finding accommodation options (hotel, ryokan, hostel, etc.) and other matters.
Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-0882
Possible Side Trips within Southern Kyoto
The Tofukuji Temple is one of Kyoto’s most popular temples that offer its visitors with breathtaking autumn colors on an annual basis. It was established during the year 1236 by the order of the Fujiwara Clan, a powerful family during the feudal era of Japan. The name of the temple combines those of two other great temples – the Todaiji Temple and the Kokufuji Temple.
According to historical records, the Tofukuji temple was also among the most significant Zen temples in Kyoto before finally being the head temple of a school from the Rinzai Sect.
During the autumn season (September – November), the temple complex gets quite crowded with locals and tourists looking to appreciate its stunning structures and lush maple trees. The vicinity has several spots that offer stunning views such as the Tsutenkyo Bridge, Sanmon Gate, and Kaisando Hall. Numerous gardens are also scattered throughout the temple grounds.
Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM, daily (March/April – October); 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (November – December); 9:00 AM – 4:00 (December – February/March)
Admission Fee: 400 yen per person
Address: 15-778 Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0981
The Daigoji Temple is one of the most significant temples of the Shingon Sect. In fact, it is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The complex covers a large area that includes a whole mountainside of southeastern Kyoto. The temple itself is located at the foot of the mountain and is connected to other buildings through a hiking trail.
The Sanboin, which dates back to the year 1598 and served as the head priest’s residence many centuries ago, is the first thing that visitors will encounter upon entering the complex. Further ahead is the Lower Daigo or Shimo Daigo area where other important structures of the temple complex can be found – the Kondo Hall, a five-story pagoda (the oldest one in Kyoto), and the Bentendo Hall.
There is also a stunning treasure house known as the Reihokan Museum located at the foot of the mountain. This museum houses a wide array of historic items, paintings, statues, and other artifacts.
After an hour long climb up the hiking trail, visitors will reach the Upper Daigo or Kami Daigo. This area used to be the original site of the main temple. Today, it offers several wooden halls for tourists to explore and stunning views of Kyoto. On clear days, Osaka can even be seen from the Upper Daigo.
Hours (Lower Grounds): 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, daily
Admission Fee (Lower Grounds): 1,500 yen per person (March 20 – May 15; October 15 – December 10); 800 yen per person (on other days of the year)
Hours (Upper Grounds): 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, daily
Admission Fee (Upper Grounds): 600 yen per person
Address: 22 Daigohigashiojicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 601-1325
The Toji Temple, which literally means the East Temple in English, dates back to the early years of the Heian Period, sometime after Kyoto was established as the new capital. Together with the Saiji Temple, its counterpart in the west, the Toji Temple served as the guardian temple of the city.
Thirty years after the completion of the temple’s construction, the founder of Japanese Buddhism’s Shingon Sect Kobo Daishi became the head priest of the temple. As such, the Toji Temple served and continues to serve as one of the most important Shingon temples of Japan.
The majority of the buildings and artifacts located within the temple grounds are a result of Kobo Daishi’s initiatives. Tourists can also find a treasure house within the complex known as the Homotsukan Museum.
Due to its historical importance, it has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, alongside many other structures in Kyoto.
Every 21st day of the month, the Toji Temple hosts a flea market that starts even before the sun comes out and ends around 4:30 PM. Visitors can find a large selection of second hand and brand-new clothes, kimonos, toys, pottery, antiques, and tools, among other goods, at the lively market.
For those that will not be able to visit the temple on the 21st, a charming antique market is also hosted by the Toji Temple every first Sunday of the month.
Hours: 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM, daily (Mid-September – Mid-March); 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM, daily (Mid-March – Mid-April); 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, daily (Mid-April – Mid-September)
Admission Fee: 500 yen per person
Address: 1 Kujocho, Minami Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 601-8473
Fushimi Sake District
The Fushimi Sake District stretches along the Horikawa River of Southern Kyoto. It is a charming place to visit for traditional sake brewing as the district houses about forty breweries. In fact, the Fushimi Sake District stands as one of the leading sake brewing areas in Japan, along with the Nada District of Kobe.
Most of the buildings within the district feature white plaster and wood walls. Among the many breweries of Fushimi Sake District is Gekkeikan, an iconic name in the industry, which has been a part of the area since the year 1637.
Some breweries in the district are open to the public, while some have separate stores where people can get a taste of their products and even purchase them on the spot. There are also several museums and restaurants scattered throughout the area.
Foreign travelers planning to take a trip to the Fushimi Sake District should take note of the following attractions to be able to fully maximize their visit:
Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum
Hours: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM, daily
Admission Fee: 300 yen per person
Address: 247 Minamihamachi, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-8043
Kizakura Kappa Country
Hours: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, daily
Admission Fee: No admission fee
Address: 228 Shioyamachi, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-8046
Hours: 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM, from Tuesday to Friday; 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM, from Saturday to Sunday
Admission Fee: No admission fee
Address: 247 Minamihamachi, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-8045
Hours: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, from Tuesday to Sunday
Admission Fee: 400 yen per person (day trip); 6,500 – 7,000 yen per person (overnight stay)
Address: 263 Minamihamacho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-8045