Fushimi Inari Shrine

Here I was, fresh off the shinkansen, newly settled into my cosy accommodations in Inari. It was barely past 3 o’clock, and still bright enough to walk around. The popular Fushimi Inari shrine was a mere 10 minutes’ walk away, so it was a perfect activity to bookend the day.

A large orange torii gate marked the entrance of the complex of Fushimi Inari, just outside Inari station. Being a Saturday, it was crowded with people and also had a street full of snack stalls. I started making my way up the stairs under the tunnels made by the bright vermillion torii gates. It was very crowded and not as empty as some pictures you may have seen on Instagram make it out to be, so most of my photos would have people in them. The walk up would have been nice and meditative, if not for the crowds, so I would recommend visiting during a less busy time period or day.

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Visitors sometimes like to don kimonos when walking up the stairs at Fushimi Inari.

However, I did manage to find an alternate route to the peak that diverged from the torii gate paths, going through bamboo and trees. It was peaceful and quiet, and I only encountered one other person who was also silently walking. However, without any signage, I wasn’t sure at that point if I was heading anywhere or just getting lost. Nevertheless, it was still bright and I was confident that I could easily turn around if it started to look threatening.

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My alternate path often had bamboo on the left and trees on the right.

Once in a while, I encountered small stone torii gates arranged in no discernible order in a small complex, which I assumed to be a cluster of altars.

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I later found out they were altars to fox spirits.

To my pleasant surprise, I eventually converged back to the main torii-gated path and shortly arrived at the peak after an hour or so of walking up steep paths and stairs. At the peak, there was a main shrine for pilgrims or adherents to pray at. Back down the main path, there is a scenic lookout point where you can see a great view of Kyoto.

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The lookout view was glaringly bright since we were staring at the setting sun. However, once I was all the way down, the sunset silhouette of the large torii gate at the entrance was an entrancing sight.

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Fushimi Inari shrine is a lovely, picturesque walk that is generally too crowded for the tranquility that it can promise. Choosing the right time to walk up the hill can present different rewards; I’m sure a dawn or dusk visit would have also been uniquely enchanting.

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