It’s the number one tourist site in Japan, famous all over the world for its vermillion passageway of tori gates. Or, if you’re me, it’s the place where a young Saori runs and prays to meet the chairman again in Memoirs of a Geisha. This was one of the first spots on my list when I came to Japan. I too wanted to run through the gates and dream of love- turned out it was super hot and crowded so getting that shot wasn’t as easy as first anticipated. But we persevered and I got to live out my dream of being a young Japanese girl on her way to geisha-hood.
The site we are talking about is, of course, Fushimi Inari. This infamous shrine is located just outside of the city of the historical city of Kyoto, and makes a great day trip from there or Osaka. The main attraction here are the thousands of tori gates that line the pathways up to the summit of the sacred Mount Inari. This is one of the most important sites for worshipping the god Inari, the god of rice – which is linked to wealth in Japanese culture. Because of this, businesses pay large amounts of money to procure a gate of their own, to gain favour with this God. If you can read Japanese, you’l see the names of each of these businesses on the gates themselves.
The hike up the mountain takes around 2-3 hours up and down (or a bit longer if you stop for a beer halfway up like we did), but the views and feeling of accomplishment are well worth it. Don’t worry if your legs give up before the top though, you can wander as much or as little as you like.
Foxes are thought of as Inari’s messengers, so you’ll see lots of fox statues scattered around the shrine. Every so often, there will be a break in the gates, and you’ll be greeted with smaller shrines adorned with miniature tori gates and red bibs. These are great places to explore, and I noticed many a tourist sailing straight past them. Wandering around these little spots also gives your legs a little break from the climb – which is always nice.
If you do reach the top, be sure to take the alternate route down to the one you took up. Both routes are fairly similar, but why repeat what you’ve already done? The two paths meet once again at a beautiful lake halfway up. If you don’t want to make the full climb, I definitely recommend at least reaching this spot!
Don’t neglect the buildings at the base of the mountain either. These are the ACTUAL shrine buildings, the tori gate madness is basically their back garden gone wild. The buildings are fairly similar to most shrines, but the amount of fox faces covering the shrine make it stand out a little more.
This was a tourist hotspot that I actually really enjoyed. The crowds were nowhere near as bad as I’d thought they’d be. Taking photos without anyone in frame was a little tricky, but it soon became a fun game, and resulted in more photos than usual!
What’s your favourite tourist hotspot that surpassed your expectations? Or do you avoid them at all costs? I’d love to know, so comment below!
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