Kyoto, Japan and Fushimi-Inari Taisha

Red Inari gates

Kyoto is a big town with a lot of sights to see. It is the cultural heart of Japan and with as many temples packed into this city as there are vending machines. That is saying a lot. With so many sights within the center of the city, I just had to point this tourist gem that is on the outskirts of the city. It is probably the best free attraction in Kyoto and is worth the train ride.

Take the JR Nara train line to the Inari stop to get to Fushimi-Inari Taisha. There is a sign right when you get out that will point you towards the trail. Be mindful that the area is only open from sunrise to sunset. I went in the morning to get do a quick hike. At four kilometers it is not the most physically taxing hike by any stretch of the imagination. Still, it is an uphill climb to those with low physical tolerance.

Fushimi-Inari Taisha is the main shrine of the several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of business. There also plenty of fox statues in the area because they are believed to be Inari’s messengers. The area is actually made up of the main shrine and several shrines along a trail that has hundreds of bright red-orange gates.

After I took a few photos of the main shrine area and ate my breakfast of Inari sushi as a nod to the god(Sushi rice wrapped with sweet tofu skin), I started on the trail. As I approached the first set of gates, it looked rather intimidating as the series of gate kept going out of my line of sight. You’ll see many characters carved into the gates. From the kanji letters and my limited Chinese, I figured that they were the name of donors and when they donated. Someone earlier in my trip told me that many merchants worshiped Inari to bring good fortune to their business.

After walking for ten minutes through the gates, I saw nothing but the red-orange gates and the bamboo. I haven’t seen any other hiker or even an attendant like I saw at the main shrine. I took a breather and soaked in the atmosphere. I leaned against one of the gates and finished the remainder of my morning sushi. It took another fifteen minutes before I got to the middle of the hike. In this area, there is a small pond and many small shrines that surround the pond. There are two paths from this area that goes in a circle back to the pond area, at least according to the map.

I went left for about ten minutes before I got a little scared from the lack of a human presence. The silence went from serene to creepy without any human contact in this developed shrine. In any case, this was the best free attraction in Kyoto and probably during my entire stay in Japan

Video of the walk through the gates

Parting Words

Surrounded by bamboo and dozens of red-orange gates, I felt that I was in a samurai movie. The wind was blowing softly and the late summer early autumn heat was soothing. That was probably as close to feeling like I was in old Japan as I could possibly get. Arrive early to avoid the crowds. I saw only two people on the way up but saw several people on the walk downhill.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.