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I have visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto extensively over the past few years, and I firmly believe Kyoto is the ultimate place to visit in Japan, whereas the Fushimi Inari Shrine is the ultimate place to visit in Kyoto.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is the head shrine of Inari, the spiritual God of foxes in the Shinto religion. The shrine sits at the base of Inari Mountain (also named after this God) and rises to 233 meters above sea-level at its peak. The design of Fushimi Inari Shrine has led to as many as 32000 replicas across the country. Here in the Kyoto, we are lucky enough to experience the head shrine. From my hotel near Kyoto Station, I actually took a taxi to Fushimi Inari Shrine, and although I cannot remember exactly how much this cost me, I was aware that it was very expensive, and fraught with worry I decided not to go near a taxi again for the remainder of my stay in Kyoto. However, Fushimi Inari was going to be one of the ultimate highlights of my travels so I was just glad to be here anyway. Now the adventure could begin!
I visited on a somewhat overcast morning, arriving at the shrine at around 11am. Admission is completely free, unlike most of Kyoto’s other stunning temples and shrines. Interestingly, Fushimi Inari is also open very early until very late, which makes for an interesting itinerary if you want to fit in other things in the middle of the day. Fortunately, when I arrived, it didn’t seem to busy around here, so I set about taking as many photos as I could of all the impressive gates and statues.
The design of the Fushimi Inari Shrine is such that the main gate and the main shrine are located at the bottom of the mountain, as you can see from some of my photos above. The middle parts of the mountain are accessible only by walking through thousands of the very famous red torii gates, which for most people represents the highlight of their visit to Fushimi Inari. At the very peak of the mountain are spots for private worship. I did not manage to get this far up, but I am not sure I missed much from up there, apart from maybe some amazing views of downtown Kyoto, but I in fact chose to experience those views much more clearly from the famous wooden pagoda at Kiyomizu-dera, which I will blog about at a later date!
Once you get to the middle part of the mountain, you are confronted of course with the famous torii gates. Each of these gates seemed to have Japanese script of some kind inscribed on them, but I cannot read Japanese so I have no idea what they mean. However, the red gates, with the black script, with the coniferous greens all around us made for a nice splurge of colours as I made my way upwards. You will notice most people stop many times around this part of the shrine to take as many photos as they can muster, and sometimes if you are planning to get a good photo yourself you must take into consideration that there may be other people in your photos!
Another thing you are sure to notice anywhere around Fushimi Inari Shrine is the multitude of fixes scattered around the place. These are Kitsune (the Japanese word for Fox), and they hold an important spiritual meaning as they are considered the messengers of Inari, and as such they are always found in Inari shrines, usually with keys in their mouths. The keys themselves are for the rice granary, as Inari was considered since the early days of Japan to be the patron of business. As such, Japanese businesspeople have always worshipped Inari as they believe good times will arrive (the grains of rice being an agricultural benefit, obviously) by doing so. Spiritually, the Kitsune are acting on behalf of Inari and reminding the worshippers that the ‘key’ to success to is to continue to revere Inari long after he had himself passed away centuries ago.
Thanks for reading about my amazing experience at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto! For more information, I would suggest reading about the shrine from a different perspective, firstly from over at Little Orange World, and secondly from Jessie over at Wild Heart with a Soft Spot. Both have some incredible photos and some good information to share!
Finally, I would like to point you in the direction of my own personal experience which I have embedded in the video below: