Fushimi Inari Shrine

Under the vermilion torii gates of Inari Shrine

I started out early from my hotel in Kyoto and went to Kyoto Station and head to Fushimi Inari Taisha, the very popular Inari shrine made famous for its vermilion torii tunnel which is just very close by. The morning was cool with sunny blue skies and there were already several visitors to the shrine when I got there. I stopped to admire the massive torii at the entrance and it marks the boundary of the mundane with the spiritual. It signals that you are now entering sacred ground.

But it was the two tier rōmon gate behind it that really caught my attention. It was flaming red, huge and intricate as well as nearly ancient in what I consider, in Japanese terms. It was just built in the 16th century. Japan, like the old cities of Europe just amazes you. In these modern and metropolitan city, the old lives harmoniously with the new. Thus in Japan, it’s easy to gaze at tall gleaming skyscrapers alongside structures built several centuries ago.

Fushimi Inari Taisha, popularly known as Fushimi Inari Shrine is the main and foremost shrine in Japan dedicated to Inari Ōkami, the kami or spirit of rice. Of tea and agriculture. Of fertility and prosperity. Of success. And it is this reason that many Japanese businesses offer vermillion torii with isncriptions, those that are found covering the path leading to the two other important shrines midway and at the summit in Inari Mountain. The shrine was said to be started in 711, but the older buildings were razed during the Ōnin War (1467 to 1477). The old structures then of the shrine dates back to 1499 with the building of the Honden, the main hall.

For the tourist, it’s the snaking torii gates going to the summit of Inari Mountain that really appeals. At the start of the trail, a huge torii is built flanked by two stone statues of foxes, or kitsune, considered as messengers of Inari Ōkami. After which pairs of succeeding torii spans until reaching the first stop, the Okusha-Hohaisho where prayers and wishes can be offered. From there, the Senbon Torii or the thousand torii starts and leads up to the mountain. The higher you get, the farther apart the torii gets. There are also trails diverging from the main path and leading to the forest where you can hike and enjoy the beauty of nature, or to other parts of the shrine complex where there are smaller shrines, probably a thousand more.

Small torii gates near the Okusha Hohaisho

Small torii gates near the Okusha Hohaisho

The Kagura-den where sacred music and dance performances by shrine maidens called Miko, are done.

The Kagura-den where sacred music and dance performances by shrine maidens called Miko, are done.

The outer hall of worship called Gan-haiden just after the rōmon

The outer hall of worship called Gan-haiden just after the rōmon

The torii gate at the entrance of the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The rōmon gate, the one after the torii, is the main entrance to the shrine and was built in the 16th century

The torii gate at the entrance of the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The rōmon gate, the one after the torii, is the main entrance to the shrine and was built in the 16th century

Just a few of the several hudnreds, if not thousands of shrine within the Inari Shrine complex. These are located just before entering the shrine grounds.

Just a few of the several hudnreds, if not thousands of smaller shrines within the Inari Shrine complex. These are located just before entering the shrine grounds.

The start of the path covered with torii leading to the summit of Inari mountain. This is just located behind the buildings at the shrine grounds. The two foxes, or kitsune, is a symbol of Inari, a Japanese kami (spirit) in Shinto religion. The canines are considered as messengers.

The start of the path covered with torii leading to the summit of Inari mountain. This is just located behind the buildings at the shrine grounds. The two foxes, or kitsune, is a symbol of Inari, a Japanese kami (spirit) in Shinto religion. The canines are considered as messengers.

The torii tunnel. These vermilion colored gates, and there are said to be 10,000 of these, are offerings by Japanese businesses as Inari is also a patron of business.

The torii tunnel. These vermilion colored gates, and there are said to be 10,000 of these, are offerings by Japanese businesses as Inari is also a patron of business.

Wooden fox face where you can write your wish or prayer at the back and draw on the front

Wooden fox face where you can write your wish or prayer at the back and draw on the front

Torii gates leading to the two upper and important shrines midway and at the summit.

Torii gates leading to the two upper and important shrines midway and at the summit.

Fukumi Inari Shrine has many trails within the area and its a great place to hike

Fukumi Inari Shrine has many trails within the area and its a great place to hike

The popular red torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

A photo posted by Estan Cabigas (@langyawtravel) on

This trip was made possible by Philippine Airlines who provided the Manila-Tokyo/Osaka-Manila plane tickets. Check their website Philippine Airlines for tickets and promos. Like their Facebook page and follow them in Twitter.

GETTING THERE: Fushimi Inari Taisha is very much accessible from Kyoto. Just take the JR Line to Inari station and from their, its a 5 minute walk to the shrine grounds. This place is really very popular with tourists and can get crowded. If you want a less crowded time, go there weekday early in the morning.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

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