10,000 Reasons to See the Fushimi Inari Tori Gates

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Photo by kenmainr

The Torii gates (鳥居) at Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) give me one more reason to love historical Japan. These gates date back to 711 A.D., and as a foreigner with only a 250 year old country, 1300 years old is an age I can’t even fathom.

In addition to age, these grounds are said to hold over 10,000 Torii gates. Experiencing these numerous and well-preserved gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine are like touching a piece of human history; if only we could see all that they have seen over the years.

To give a little background, a Torii gate is seen as an entrance to a sacred shrine in the Shinto religion. They mark the pathway to shrines across Asia, and I’m sure you’ve come to know them as a symbol of Japan.

What is unique about the Torii gates at Inari Fushimi, though, is their background. Each gate has been donated by a company or organization giving thanks for their prosperity and in hope of good fortune in the future. I only wished I could read all of the names engraved on each gate, but for now it remains to be beautiful artwork representing Japan’s past.

tori

The significance of the shrines located at Fushimi Inari is to honor Inari (稲荷), the Shinto god of rice. You will also see foxes places throughout these grounds, as they are said to be messengers for Inari.

But, if you’re more interested in sightseeing than knowing the history, you can still enjoy the Fushimi Inari shrine just as much. As you enter the large main Torii gate you will see multiple shrines and neat shops for souvenirs. Then you will start to make your way up the stairs on the journey through the 10,000 Torii gates. The varying sizes and faded colors surprised me the most. Since pictures don’t do it justice, you have to see all of it for yourself in person.

While taking the long hike through the gates and up the hill, you will see even more shops for souvenirs and food. This is all leading up to the top of the hill, which overlooks beautiful Kyoto. But be warned, this trek up the mountain is longer than you expect. To get to the top and return again to the bottom would take 3-4 hours; if you don’t stop to enjoy the food, that is.

Thankfully, you don’t have to walk the entire path, though. You can enjoy as much or little as you want, then make your way back down through the gates to enjoy the scenery and Torii gates all over again.

fushimi_inari_tori_gates

As for the crowds, there really were none. I don’t know if it’s the fact that my definition of “crowd” has changed since moving from a town of 2,000 people in Virginia to a Japanese city of 400,000, but it really seemed very pleasant. And as usual, the Japanese visitors were just as much tourists as we were, taking pictures and standing in awe at all the history and sights the grounds had to offer. I’ve heard New Year’s day is a little more crowded, though; with almost 3 million visitors in only 3 days. But hey, one man’s crowd is another man’s adventure, right?

After finishing our hike and picture taking, I noticed a side street to the right as you exit the shrine. I can’t find it on any tourist information websites, but it turned out to be the best place to find souvenirs and food at the shrine. It looks like a permanent market set up along the street, with family-owned shops that have probably been there for years. Just another great reason to see the lovely Fushimi Inari Torii gates.

When you visit Kyoto, don’t forget about this attraction that will give a whole new meaning to “Japanese history and culture.”

Access:

68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Kyoto Fushimi-ku, Kyoto Prefecture

Via the JR Nara Line, 5 minutes, 140¥
Kyoto Station> Inari Station
As you exit the gate, you can probably just follow the crowd. The main Torii gate will be ahead and to your left.

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Navy wife, esl teacher, travel enthusiast.
  • Sanjay Ranade says:

    Excellent information. Very useful for my upcoming visit.

  • It is hard to get those professional looking shots with no one in the way, but it is possible (with a bit of luck and maybe some wet weather). But, it is a good thing to do if you have a small amount of time (a couple of hours) as you can get to/from Kyoto station and have a good look around quite quickly. If you want to do the trek up Fushimi Mountain (hill), that takes a while longer.
    The small garden area to the left of the shrine complex is a nice addition, but will take another few years to look its best.

  • Kilowoo says:

    Amazing Place! Worth to be there hours… is really magic!

  • Lisa says:

    Fushimi Inari really is one of my favourite spots in Kyoto and when I have guests I always bring them there. I’ve seen my fair share of tori gates but it’s somewhat a new experience with different weather and crowd and company. So ofcourse I recommend everyone to go there. BUT I have to warn you about this market street to the right when you leave. at least about the food, I tried two different restaurants and it was the worst. old, soggy chicken, badly seasoned and luke warm rice, badly tasting vegetables in the tempura. maybe I had bad luck, maybe I went to exactly the wrong place or on the wrong day, but I’d recommend to head somewhere else for the stomach filling. or buy a bento/sushi/nikuman/whatever at the convenience store, they taste great.

  • Alex Sharp says:

    I spent too much time at the station in Kyoto but now have a nice portfolio of both interior and exterior. Tried to upload a pic of station but too big.Where do you currently live???

    • kelsey says:

      Oh my goodness, I never saw this comment! I apologize. I am currently back in America, sadly! (Wish I was in Japan 🙂 Are you still in Asia?

  • Alex Sharp says:

    Shinkansen a great way to travel. Getting to Japan I flew into Kansai then bussed to Kyoto then
    from there to Tokyo and back by Shinkansen. Did you spend any time actually looking at Kyoto station??? It’s a really awesome structure..

    • kelsey says:

      Yes I did!! You could stay there looking for a while. Such a neat city all around, I’d love to be able to stay there more long term in the future

  • Alex Sharp says:

    Yes, Kelsey, I do know Kyoto better than most, Did plenty of research prior to my first trip in 2013. Then gained further during my trip earlier this year.

    • kelsey says:

      Thats a great way to do it. It takes a lot of research and planning to see even just a small percent of what the city has to offer. and for getting there- it was our only chance to take the shinkansen 😉

  • Alex Sharp says:

    My first time in Kyoto was 2013, 11 days and 3 in Nara. This year I managed 18 days in Kyoto and 10 in Tokyo. Prior to my trip in ’13 I did a fair amount of research on where to find places and also how to get to them. Must also say that NHK contributed to my knowledge with their series “Mapping the streets of Kyoto”. I feel very comfortable in Kyoto, it’s a great city.

  • Bree Storey says:

    I absolutely love Fushimi Inari Taisha, and I did a lot if research there, it is fantastic. But I will say this, Inari shrines have a much more recent history than other shrines. A FEW torii are from 711AD, but most are from the past century or younger. They replace older torii with the new ones donated by modern companies. For example, in the close-up picture with the Japanese writing (which gives the dates), those gates are from 2007-2009, so not very historical, they’re younger than you and me! But overall, surely Fishimi Inari has quite a lot of history, and a truly colorful past when you start looking into its history and connections.

    • Alex Sharp says:

      On my visits to Fushimi have seen them replacing those toriis that have simply rotted away. Quite a job really. Would love to know how many thousands of litres of vermillion paint they used over the years.

  • Alex Sharp says:

    Hi Kelsey, From Kyoto station does make sense and I have in fact done that route as well. When in Kyoto I spend a fair amount of time in Gion and Hagashiyama so find Keihan line convenient for Fushimi, Tofukuji etc……Also, my hotel is well set for Sanjo. If you like you can see some of
    my photos of Kyoto/Japan on my website http://www.BuddhaBleu.com Cheers, Alex

    • kelsey says:

      Thats amazing you were able to get to know the area so well and spend a good deal of time there. Your photography is beautiful!! I always failed to capture the people as much as the “things,” you’ve done that very well.

  • Alex Sharp says:

    If you happen to be in the Gion area you can also access Fushimi Inari from Sanjo or Gion stations on the Keihan Line. Also around 140.00 yen.

    • kelsey says:

      Thanks Alex! I came from Kyoto Station that day, so it helps to know about how to get there from some other areas 🙂

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