Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto is probably one of the most famous sights with its many red shrine gates.
Actually this was not my first time going to Fushimi Inari Shrine. My first visit was in September 2007.
That was before I had moved to Japan permanently. Still it was one of my favorite memories of Japan back then.
Since then, I’ve been back to Fushimi Inari several times dragging along family and friends. And they all loved it there.
So, let me drag you along as well! :)
The shrine is just a short walk from JR Inari Station or Keihan Fushimiinari Station. It’s really easy to find. The first thing you’ll see is the main gate at the entrance of Fushimi Inari Shrine.
As I went there on a national holiday there were a lot of people. Well, actually I think with the recent tourist boom it’s almost always crowded nowadays. 2011 was still different as it was before said boom.
In November there is a festival called “7-5-3 Day” (七五三, shichi-go-san) which is for kids aged 3, 5 or 7. They visit shrines with their families wearing beautiful kimonos.
Of course I ran into some of them on my way. So cute!
This is in front of the main shrine. But don’t just stop there. There’s a lot more to discover.
Inari Shrine Symbols: Fox statues and red gates
All “Inari” shrines, Fushimi Inari Shrine being the biggest in Japan, worship the god “Inari”.
Although it’s mainly Shinto (the original Japanese religion) shrines that worship that deity, there are also some Buddhist temples that do.
More than one-third of all Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to Inari.
Inari shrines can usually be identified by fox statues and red gates.
In the photo above you see one of the many “kitsune” (fox) statues at Fushimi Inari Shrine.
The foxes are said to be messengers of the god “Inari”.
By the end of this blog entry you’ll hopefully understand how big the biggest Inari Shrine actually is.
The main symbol of Fushimi Inari Shrine: the red gates – here the mini version of it. They are used as ema.
A picture inside the red gates like the one above is something you must do when you’re there. On crowded days (= most of the days) it’s really hard to take a photo without any people, though.
Once you get through the first larger section of red gates, you reach another small shrine. Most people stop here if they don’t have much time and then go back.
These wooden wishing plaques are interesting. You can draw the face of the fox yourself and on the back you write your wish.
There are like 100 spots where you can stop and pray. However, you shouldn’t be allergic to red gates or you’re in serious trouble.
Alcohol and some filled sweet tofu “bags”, also known as “Inari-zushi“. The latter is said to be the favorite dish of the fox deity.
Going deeper into the forest. If you want to you can spend there almost a whole day!
You can escape the red gates going left and right as there are also smaller shrines in the forest, like the one above.
Not only red gates, but also a lot of bigger and smaller stone gates are everywhere.
All of the gates have kanji on them. That’s because they were donated and so they have their donator’s name (often companies) on them.
Some of them seem to be quite old already.
Or the cats have been eating them? Can you spot the cat in above photo?
The coolest thing I found at Fushimi Inari Shrine was this fox pond where you can wash your hands and mouth before praying.
And here we go again, deeper and higher!
Like I mentioned earlier there are REALLY millions of smaller shrines!
Too many red gates and fox statues already? Then you really underestimated Fushimi Inari Shrine!! We’re not quite there yet!
Aren’t they interesting, though? I really love taking close-ups of them!
Another fox statue and even more small red gates. By the way, you can buy the smaller red gates (actually smaller than the ones on the photo) as souvenir!
Back at the Yotsutsuji intersection there were cool drinks for people in need. Quite cool setting up the drinks like that!
From the intersection you have such a lovely view.
Most people manage to go as far as that and then go back.
As you can see in all the photos above I took the whole loop tour (takes about 40 minutes). There are some bigger shrines on the way where you can get seals for your shrine seal book, too.
It is quite a walk and if you’re short on time then better skip it. I had to give up somewhere around the intersection when I first visited in summer 2007 because it was just far too hot.
Now, many years later in November, it had just the right temperature.
On my way back I ran into a few more stray cats. So adorable.
I took a different route back down to the main shrine and so I ran into yet some more smaller shrines.
Very colorful stone statues.
Almost back down again, I discovered this army of mini fox statues!! (O__O”) …
One last shot and I left Fushimi Inari Shrine to go to the 3rd destination of that day.
First I visited Momoyama Castle, then I headed to Fushimi Inari Shrine.
At last I went to Tofukuji.
You can easily visit all three in one day – probably even more as I started my journey quite late that day.