The Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) is one of over 400 Shinto Shrines in the city of Kyoto, Japan. Despite the extraordinary amount of shrines in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari stands out amongst all of them and is one of the most popular places to visit both in the city and in the entire country!
Personally, the big draw for me visiting the shrine was to see the location where one of my favorite movies, Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed. Memoirs of a Geisha peaked my curiosity about Japan long before I visited and I knew that one day I wanted to visit this beautiful destination.
When you first arrive to Fushimi Inari, you will be greeted by a large torii gate, which symbolizes the division between our physical world and the spirit world. Before passing through the torii gate, you should bow slightly and pass underneath it on the side to enter the sacred land.
After passing through the torii gate, directly in front of you there will be two things: the entryway to the Fushimi Inari shrine, and a purification area, called a temizuya (手水舎). Before entering a Shinto shrine, it is customary to perform a misogi, which is a purification process that will prepare you to enter into the shrine spiritually cleansed.
It is not mandatory to perform the purification process before entering the shrine (and you will notice that many visitors skip this process), however if you are interested in performing the ritual, you should follow these steps: (1) Approach the temizuya and remove one ladle (2) Scoop a little bit of water out and pour it into one hand, and repeat the process pouring it into the other hand (3) Scoop up some water a third time, cup your hand, pour some water into it, sip the water in your hand and then spit it out (do not swallow it – this is not a drinking fountain!).
After becoming spiritually cleansed, you will make your way towards the entryway and you will pass by several foxes. These foxes are the messengers of the spirit goddess named Inari (稲荷), who is the keeper of rice.
After passing through the entryway you will come face-to-face with the offering hall, called a haiden (拝殿). After a little bit of clapping, bowing, coin-tossing, and bell-ringing at the offering hall, you are now ready to proceed to the famous torii gates that the shrine is famous for.
It is said that Fushimi Inari houses over 10,000 torii gates however, I only saw a handful of them as I did not have enough time to do the 3 hour trek to the top of the shrine grounds.
A visit to the shrine is definitely a very unique experience to have in Japan. You will be awestruck as you find yourself gazing at the red and black torii gates towering above your head that have been in existence for over 1,000 years.
If you make your way to the city of Kyoto, make sure to make you find time to visit Fushimi Inari.
*Note: Being that the gates are one of the most popular tourist sites in Japan, it gets very crowded. If you are looking to take photographs here, wait for intermittent breaks in the crowd or head to higher ground.
Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto
Transportation: [From Kyoto] JR Nara Line – Inari Station (located directly across the street from the station) // [From Kyoto or Osaka] Keihan Line – Fushimi Inari Station (located about five minutes walking from the station)
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset | Price: FREE