The Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the most photogenic and popular places to visit in Kyoto. With its beautiful shrines and magical, winding paths that are covered in over 5000 vibrant torii gates, this mountain temple is as peaceful as it is striking.
In this article, we will give you everything you need to know about the Fushimi Inari Shrine, including the meaning behind it, what to expect when you arrive, some festivals that take place there, as well as a way to tour the temple.
The Fushimi Inari Temple was founded in the year 711, making it one of Kyoto's oldest landmarks. Fushimi Inari is the most important of over a thousand shrines that are dedicated to the Shinto god of rice and sake, Inari. The temple was originally built by the Hata clan in order to bring good luck and prosperity to business enterprises in the region.
Because of its importance in the Shinto religion, Fushimi Inari draws several million worshippers every year, especially during the New Year celebration when merchants, traders, and all types of people come to ask for good fortune in the coming year.
Fushimi Inari is very picturesque and was featured in the film Memoirs of a Geisha. Many foreign tourists visit the temple in order to see the red torii gates and walk the mountain trails behind the shrine. We suggest exploring every part of the shrine in order to take it all in.
The temple grounds of Fushimi Inari are quite large and include the outer shrine, the torii gates, and the mountain trails. Each part of the shrine is breathtakingly beautiful, from the striking red buildings of the outer shrine to the views from the mountain trails.
The first thing you will see when visiting Fushimi Inari is the outer shrine. The shrine buildings themselves are very attractive and are full of meaning and cultural significance.
The main entrance to the shrine consists of the large and impressive red Romon tower gate, rising high above the people entering. The Romon Gate was built in 1589, using donations from a local Samurai warlord.
After passing through the main gate, you will see a stage where performances are held during yearly festivals and rituals. To the right of the stage is the Higashimaru-jinja Shrine which is where people go to pray for academic success.
You will be able to spot this shrine easily because of the thousands of origami cranes that decorate it. Students who are hoping to pass an exam fold these origami cranes in order to have their wish granted.
In the outer shrine area, visitors will also see the main hall (Haiden). This is the area where worshippers make donations or pray. Next to the main hall, there is a table with wooden cylinders on it.
This is where visitors can receive their fortune. To receive your fortune, you shake a stick until a number falls from it. Then you pay 200 Yen to receive the fortune that corresponds to your number.
One of the main reasons that tourists come to Fushimi Inari is to see the beautiful red torii gates that cover the trail behind the outer shrine. The One Thousand Torii Gates Trail starts at the very back of the outer shrine and is marked by two dense rows of torii gates.
In Japanese culture, a torii gate is said to be the division between the physical and spiritual world. At Fushimi Inari, all of the torii gates were donated by either people or companies. The donating of torii gates began during the Edo period with the belief that if one donated a gate that their wish would come true or they would have luck in their future ventures.
You can see the name of the donor and date of the donation inscribed in Japanese on the back of each gate. Donating a small gate typically costs around 400,000 yen, and large gates can cost over one million yen.
Because this part of the shrine is very popular, this is the area of Fushimi that tends to get most crowded. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth walking through these bright gates surrounded by the peaceful forest.
When you reach the end of the One Thousand Torii Gates Trail, there will be a small shrine. From there you can continue climbing up the mountain. The mountain trails are less crowded and contain more torii gates (although smaller).
After the One Thousand Torii Gate Trail, if you continue following the path, you'll start climbing the sacred Inari Mountain. This area is probably the most secluded area of the temple grounds, as many of the worshipers and local tourists stay in the lower areas.
The hike to the summit and back to the outer shrine takes about 2-3 hours, however, you don't have to hike the entire loop. Many visitors choose to hike as far as they want and then turn back. The hike is a great way to see the entire temple grounds and is relatively easy.
Along the trail, there are many smaller shrines and also miniature torii gates that were donated by visitors. There are also a few restaurants along the way where visitors can buy local dishes such as Inari Sushi and Kitsune Udon.
About halfway up the mountain, visitors can stop at the Yotsutsuji intersection which has some of the best views of Kyoto. Many people come to this area around sunset to get beautiful photographs of the city. You can also take a short rest there and grab a drink before either turning back or continuing your hike around the mountain.
While exploring Fushimi Inari, you will notice many fox (kitsune) statues along the path and near the shrines. The reason for this is that foxes are often considered to be the messengers of the god Inari. Foxes are found at all shrines that are dedicated to Inari throughout Japan.
Some foxes in the temple have more than one tail. The foxes with the most tails are the oldest, wisest, and most powerful. Many of the statues will depict a fox with a red scarf around its neck and a key in its mouth. The red scarves represent the expelling of demons as well as illnesses, and the keys represent the key to the grain storehouses.
There are many Shinto holidays and festivals that are celebrated at Fushimi Inari. The celebrations tend to be large and draw many worshippers because of the shrine's importance throughout Japan.
The temple welcomes everyone, including visitors, during festivals, and attending one is a great way to experience Japanese culture.
This is the biggest and most famous festival that is celebrated at Fushimi Inari. During the New Year in Japan it is a tradition for people all over the country to visit a shrine and pray for good fortune.
Although Fushimi Inari is extremely crowded at New Year, the atmosphere is wonderful and there are many rituals to participate in. You can join people as they pray for luck in the coming year, buy a fortune paper, or join in the crowds of people donating money.
The Inari Festival takes place from April 22nd to May 3rd. At that time, it is believed, that the god of Inari visits the temple area and blesses the people there. During the festival, trucks carrying portable shrines will lead a parade of followers through Kyoto and the temple grounds.
This festival has taken place for over 1000 years and is one of the most important ones at the shrine.
This festival takes place over two days in the summer and is a lively, lantern-based celebration. On the first day, thousands of stone and wooden lanterns are hung and lit along the paths throughout the shrine and across the sacred Inari mountain.
Anyone can donate a lantern, from normal people to traditional artists who spend time carving and decorating their donations. Throughout the two days of the festival, people come to pray, and there are various performances held on the stage in the outer temple.
Our favorite way to explore Fushimi Inari is on a half-day tour that includes a tour of a nearby sake brewery. On this tour, visitors will be led by a local guide who can introduce the rich history and charm of Fushimi Inari and the surrounding area.
Having a guide is important when visiting the shrine, in order to understand the full meaning of everything you see while in the temple grounds.
After exploring the temple and learning about the traditions and history of this sacred place, visitors will quench their thirst at the nearby sake brewery. You can try many different kinds of sake as well as learn about the traditional brewing process of this quintessential Japanese beverage.
Want to learn about and explore Fushimi Inari while visiting Kyoto? Take a moment to contact our experts for more information about touring Fushimi Inari and our tailor-made Japan adventures. Our goal is to help all visitors have the best travel experience, by arranging trips that fit their desires and schedules. Reach us here.