When I walk east from the station, I can already see a hill ahead of me: Inari-san, the site where Fushimi Inari-taisha is located. Originally dedicated to the gods of rice and sake, the shrine complex is now focused on business. For some reason, I expected few people, but I am wrong. Already walking towards the entrance through some smaller streets with shops, there are quite a lot of people shopping, and when I reach the main entrance, there is a crowd walking in with me. Fortunately, I still have most of the afternoon, and the Fushimi Inari-taisha complex is big, so I decide to walk one of the paths around the hill. Soon enough, I walk through long lines of vermillion-and-black torii, or shrine gates, forming tunnels on the slopes of the hill.
Here, too, there are a lot of people, and I wait until there is a temporary drop of people, in order to enjoy the view of the orange tunnels, and take pictures. Walking further uphill, I come across small shrines, too. Apart from the torii, in orange, but also in stone, the shrines are guarded by stone foxes, considered the messengers of Inari, the god of cereals. They are mostly seen with a key in their mouth, which supposedly opens the rice granary. Sometimes, though, I spot foxes with grain in their mouth, and a red scarf around their neck. Two Japanese girls walk by, dressed up in traditional clothes, attracting attention from everyone around. There is a pond with carps and more shrines, and the path uphill continues on stairs and through more torii tunnels.
There is one point where the woods open, offering views of Kyoto below. From here, yet another dead end stair-path leads to another shrine. The main path leads further east. The higher I get, the less people there are, and the more I can enjoy the shrines, and the more I get a feeling of tranquility that can be so present in Japanese temples. The shrine on top of Inari-san is quiet, and I stay for a while to enjoy the atmosphere. Then, I start the stairs downhill, until I reach Senbon Torii, the 1000 Torii gates, a double tunnel of vermillion torii gates. It is getting dark, but here, there are still a lot of people around. I now realize I should have been here early in the morning, before the crowds arrived. The elegance of the lined-up orange gates with lanterns is obvious. At the other side, I am close to the main shrine, and the two-storied gate, which is now bathing in the spotlight. Two large foxes at the front side guard the gate: two graceful silhouettes in the falling night in which the brilliant orange of the torii gates slowly dissolves.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Fushimi Inari-taisha (Japan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Fushimi Inari-taisha. Read more about this site.