Fushimi Inari-Taisha, the most famous shrine in Japan
Fushimi Inari-Taisha is one of the most important Shinto shrines in the whole of Japan. Famed for its thousands of bright-red torii (gates at the entrance to shrines), it welcomes thousands of visitors every year, especially since the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha.
Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine was founded in 711 to the southeast of Kyoto during the Heian period with the imperial family as patrons. It is dedicated to Inari, a divinity who can be found represented as both a man and a woman, depending on the region, and who governs fertility, rice and trade. This divinity is usually linked to foxes, who act as messengers, and the shrine features several sculptures of foxes, kitsune, with sickles and keys in their mouth to open the rice granaries.
Inari is also linked to wealth, so traders and craftspeople worship this divinity in the hope of doing good business. This devotion takes the form of the famous torii that adorn the shrine. Each one has been donated by an individual, family or business and bears an inscription with the donor’s name and the date of the donation. To give you an idea, a small torii would cost you around ¥400,000 and a large one could easily set you back by over ¥1 million.
At Fushimi Inari-Taisha the thousands of red torii line the 4 km path that winds up the sacred hill, forming a kind of red corridor.
Fushimi Inari-Taisha is made up of five shrines on the sides of Inari-yama hill. The main shrine is on the top, while the Go Honden shine and Sakura gate are at the base. As you climb up, you’ll find food stalls selling thematic dishes such as inari sushi and kitsune udon with fried tofu, said to be a favourite with foxes… Halfway up there’s a viewpoint with stunning views over the city of Kyoto.
How to get to Fushimi Inari-Taisha
The easiest way to get to Fushimi Inari-Taisha from Kyoto is by train. It’s only a five-minute journey and Japan Railways’ Inari station is right in front of the Sakura gate.
The shrine is always open and admission is free.