Widely known and adored by many, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is absolutely one place which is imperative to go when visiting Kyoto. It is dedicated to the Shinto Kami (God) of foxes, rice and fertility, named Inari. Being the God of foxes, these creatures are believed to be the Inari’s messengers, so be no stranger to the thousands of figures representing this animal while you are exploring.
Nevertheless, what really catches people’s attention is this shrine’s extremely symmetrical and somehow monotonous architecture, which no one is capable of denying how stunningly the vivid bloody red colour of its structure is knitted to the green of the forest of Mount Inari.
After moving from the entrance area into the foothills of Mount Inari, a labyrinth of arcs of this characteristic colour leads everyone who dares to adventure through this place where the pinnacles of the Shinto religion are rooted.
Along the way, it is common to spot people wearing a yukata (traditional Japanese clothing), as well as people selling colourful charms and papers with your fortune written on it. The discovery goes on through a great number of lined up arcs, every single one marked with black Japanese characters, representing the sponsors who have contributed for the maintenance of this place.
However, keep in mind that this shrine has more to offer than these gorgeously aligned arcs. Keep your eyes open for narrow paths you will find along the way. It might lead to corners packed of exquisite elements, like stone or wood torii (gates) or fox figures, while others might lead to petites waterfalls, hidden among the rocks. Finally, make sure you look back once in a while, especially when you are moving up the Yotsutsuji intersection. Here it is possible to rest, buy a snack and appreciate the splendid view of Kyoto from up this mountain.
The shrine is spread all over the mountain, with its path well signalled with maps and checkpoints along the way. There is no need to rush in taking photos on the first found set of red arcs, it even might be difficult since it will probably be crowded. Some more minutes of walking will get you into zones with fewer people, equally dense of arcs that will provide you with much more aesthetic photographs.
On another note, going all the way to the top of the of the mountain means that there will be less arcs to admire and barely no view over the city, since the forest covers most of it. Although, it is still a great hiking challenge and a good way to immerse oneself into the quietness of the woods.
Another curious fact has to do with the weather. Even though there are almost no covered areas to stay dry, visiting it on rainy days might come out as a surprise. Watch out for the slippery steps but be sure to enjoy the magic that the raining season brings to this place. It will not disappoint you.
It is possible to reach the shrine by using the Nara line of JR line and getting off in Inari station. This train takes about 5 minutes from Kyoto Station to get there. Another solution is taking either the bus number 105 or 南5 from Kyoto Station that takes no more than 15 minutes to get there. If the plan includes visiting a considerable number of temples in Kyoto in a day, buying a one-day bus pass at Kyoto Station (¥600 per adult) is highly useful. The shrine is free of charge and can be visited anytime at day or night.
Official Website: http://inari.jp/en/
Definitely a must-see next time you are coming to Kyoto!