Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine

This is the most amazing shrine I’ve visited in Japan so far, it is very beautiful with fox statues and thousands of red torii gates lining the hills.

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It is one of the oldest (founded in 711 AD) and most revered Shinto shrines, and dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, sake, and prosperity.

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While the primary reason most foreign visitors come to Fushimi Inari Shrine is to explore the mountain trails, the shrine buildings themselves are also attractive and worth a visit.

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At the very back of the shrine’s main grounds is the entrance to the torii gate covered hiking trail, which starts with two dense, parallel rows of gates called Senbon Torii (“thousands of torii gates”).

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The torii gates along the entire trail are donations by individuals and companies, and you will find the donator’s name and the date of the donation inscribed on the back of each gate.

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The cost starts around 400,000 yen for a small sized gate and increases to over one million yen for a large gate.

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Of course, you could also purchase a tiny shrine gate. Either as a souvenir to take home…

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… or to write your wish on it and leave it at the Fushimi Inari temple.

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Foxes are said to be the messengers of Inari, and stern bronze and stone foxes can be seen throughout the shrine.

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Inari’s foxes are generally considered helpful, but they have also been said to bewitch people. The keys that some of them hold in their mouths are for the rice granaries.

Useful info:

  • With public transport, just take the JR Nara Line to Fushimi-Inari Station, then a 3-minute walk. From Tofuku-ji Station it is one stop south toward Nara
  • Alternatively you can take a taxi. Most drivers know Fushimi Inari – if not, then the address is 68 Fukakusa Yabu-no-uchi-cho in Kyoto
  • Admission is free and the shrine is always open
  • Along the hiking trail, small restaurants serve Kitsune Udon, a noodle soup topped with pieces of aburaage (fried tofu), a treat favored by foxes. You can also try Inari sushi, which is fried tofu wrapped around sweetened rice (which I really like, but I never knew where the name came from!)

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