Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto is one of the highlights of Kyoto and over ten million Japanese and foreign tourists visit this shrine every year. In this article, we introduce everything you need to know about Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Fushimi Inari Shrine overview
Fushimi Inari Shrine, located in southern Kyoto, is the central location for several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice harvest, commerce and business. Dozens of statues of foxes, which is considered as the messenger of the god, can be found in the shrine ground. They sometimes have a key in their mouth, which represents the key to the rice storehouse in ancient times.
Seemingly unending path of over 5,000 bright vermillion torii gates that wind through the hills behind Fushimi Inari Shrine makes it one of the most popular shrines in Japan. 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. The cost starts around 400,000 yen for a small sized gate and increases to over one million yen for a large gate.
Fushimi Inari pilgrimage hike leads you from Keihan Fushimi Inari Station or JR Inari Station to near the top of Mount Inari-san. This 5 kilometers hike involves a bit of stair climbing, but it is not too hard if you take it slow. For much of the hike, you will be passing through arcades of vermillion torii gates. And you will pass various shrines and sub-shrines along the route. And, at one point, you will be treated to an incredible view across all of southern Kyoto.
History of Fushimi Inari Shrine
The original structures of the shrine were constructed in 711 to enshrine the deity “who feeds, clothes and houses us and protests us so that all of us may live with abundance and pleasure”. In 942, the shrine was recognized as the highest rank for Shinto shrines. In 1468, the gates and main shrine hall were destroyed by a fire. The main gate, called Romon, which can be found at the bottom of the hill, was rebuilt in 1589, and the main shrine hall, called Honden, was reconstructed in 1499.
In the Edo Period (1603-1867), Fushimi Inari Shrine started to be popular among merchants for prosperous business, and many merchants started to worship Inari Shrine. As a result, the Inari Shrine started to be constructed all over Japan. As thanking the God for the fulfillment of a wish, the merchants dedicated a red torii gate to the shrine. This is how the custom of donating the torii gates started.
In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the shrine’s ground was reduced to a quarter.
Today Fushimi Inari Shrine is known as a deity of business prosperity, prosperity of industries, safety of households, safety in traffic and improvement in the performing arts.
Tips to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine
Because of its high popularity, Fushimi Inari Shrine is quite crowded throughout the year. The shrine is open 24/7, so you can visit anytime of the day. If you want to avoid huge crowds, we recommend you to visit early in the morning or in the evening after sunset. If you arrive before 8:00am or after 8:00pm, it is likely that there are much less tourists than other time of the day. In addition, in the evening, the shrine is especially beautiful with lights.
The best seasons to visit are spring and autumn. Like many other spots in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine is very beautiful with autumn leaves from mid-November to early December. Please note that in autumn, there will be even more visitors at the shrine than usual.
There are a few cherry blossom trees in the shrine ground, which is not enough to call them the best place to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto. However, it is special to see the main red gate, the main hall and cherry blossoms all together. There are two popular types of cherry blossoms here. Besides the most common Somei Yoshino, there are weeping cherry blossoms called Shidare Sakura.
If you are interested in the traditional events held at the shrine, you can find various of them all year round. The most important shrine festival is Inari-sai which is held on Sunday closest to the twentieth day of April. In this festival, portable Inari shrines are brought to the area to confer blessings. The festival lasts for about two weeks.
Read How to Pray at Japanese Shinto Shrine before you visit!
What can be found near Fushimi Inari Shrine
After or before your visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine, we recommend you to visit these interesting spots nearby.
Fushimi Kandakara Shrine
If you walk through the tail behind Fushimi Inari Shrine, you can find Fushimi Kandaka Shrine. This small shrine is related to a famous Japanese folktale called “Taketori Monogatari (The Tale of a Bamboo Cutter)”, which is the story of a beautiful woman called Princess Kaguya who arrived on Earth from the moon. At this shrine, people write their wishes on doll-shaped Japanese decorative papers.
Sekihoji Temple is located approximately 300 meters to southeast from Fushimi Inari Shrine. Behind the main temple hall in the mountain, there are five hundred statutes carved out of stone, each depicting a disciple of Buddha. This group of statues, called the Gohyaku Rakan, was captured in a sketch by Ito Jakuchu who is a famous Japanese painter of the mid-Edo Period.
Tofukuji Temple is a large Zen temple in southeastern Kyoto, two stations from JR Inari Station. The temple is particularly famous for its spectacular autumn colors that reach their peak usually around mid to late November. Its name is a combination of the names of two great temples in Nara, Todaiji Temple and Kofukuji Temple, which were associated with the Fujiwara family who founded Tofukuji Temple in 1236. Tofukuji Temple has historically been one of the principal Zen temples in Kyoto.
If you are planning to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, we recommend you to do so early in the morning or in the evening to avoid huge crowds of tourists and also to allow yourself to visit interesting spots nearby.
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