Fushimi Inari Taisha｜伏見稲荷大社
With a history tracing back to the 8th century, Fushimi Inari Taisha is the headquarters of the some 30,000 Inari shrines around the country. Located on and around Mt. Inari, the shrine complex is comprised of easily accessible worship halls at the base of the mountain connected via vermilion torii gate-lined paths winding up the heavily wooded heights to more remote inner shrines and surprises that require some hiking to reach. Some ten thousand torii gates line the walkways of Fushimi Inari Taisha and serve as its most charming and outstanding feature. Another popular point of this shrine is the numerous statues of kitsune, foxes who are thought to serve as the messengers of the god of agriculture and business, Inari. It’s quite fun to take a stroll throughout the shrine grounds seeing how many sorts of fox statues you can locate. At the base of the mountain visitors can enjoy the large first torii gate right outside the local train station as well as the towering shrine gate before reaching the prayer hall, the main hall, and the shrine offices, with several souvenir shops nearby selling all manner of fox-related memorabilia. A short hike up a slight incline takes one to the mid-way shrine where you can write a wish on a fox-shaped votive tablet. Those with more time and energy can continue hiking up the mountain to the shrine at the very top and discover some of the more hidden gems of the shrine the deeper you go in to the forest, as well as enjoy the panoramic view of the city below.
Some ten thousand torii gates line the walkways of Fushimi Inari Taisha and serve as its most charming and outstanding feature.
As you walk through Fushimi Inari Shrine you will notice that you are surrounded by fox statues, foxes being considered messengers of the god Inari. These statues come in all shapes and sizes, many holding a symbolic item in their mouths or beneath their front paws, like a key to a rice granary or a stone representing the god’s spirit. Though most of the statues are made of stone, you can also find porcelain foxes placed on altars. You might expect these foxes to be red or brown, but in order to symbolize that these kitsune are mythical creatures normally invisible to the human eye, they’re shown as white. While you’re making your way through the shrine, see how many different foxes you encounter!
Omamori are Japanese good luck charms or amulets available at religious sites that come in various styles and serve to provide luck or protection. At Fushimi Inari Taisha, you can find omamori featuring foxes that can be purchased as key chains, cards for your wallet, or embroidered pouches. Buy one to carry around for yourself or your loved ones and let the fox charm bring good luck into your life.
Thanks to their connection with foxes, there are a lot of souvenir shops selling goods related to the animal around Fushimi Inari Taisha. Handmade fox masks are a well-known souvenir and start from just 1,000 yen. Made from Japanese washi paper, they are particularly popular during festival season at the shrine. Not just for wearing, these masks also make great decorations for your home.
Cute, fox-shaped rice crackers have been made in this area for over 100 years using the same delicious recipe, individually made with love from white miso, sesame, sugar and flour.
Fox Votive Tablets
Ema (votive tablets for writing wishes on) are very popular in shrines and temples around Japan. People write their wishes and leave the tablets hanging up at the shrine where the kami (Shinto deities) can receive them. Usually ema have a more rectangular shape, but the special ema at Fushimi Inari Taisha are in a shape of a fox. These ema can be purchased at the shrine for 500 yen. When you buy the ema you write your wish on the back, and on the front you draw the face of the fox. It’s exciting to see all the ema lined up with the different faces that the visitors drew!
Step One: Draw a face on the fox (the front of the ema). Give the fox some character and feel free to add your personal touch.
Step Two: Fill in the text.
Wish (願い): Write down anything your heart desires.
Address (住所): This part is optional.
Name (氏名): Write your name.
Date (参拝日): Write the current date.
Step Three: Hang the ema on the ema display racks with the face towards you.
If you’ve seen any photos of Kyoto at all, you’ve probably seen one of a long tunnel of vermilion gates that seems to have no end. This tunnel is actually at Fushimi Inari Taisha, and is made up of things called torii gates. To express gratitude to the deity of the shrine, visitors traditionally donate a torii gate whenever their wish comes true or when making a prayer for prosperity. This tradition has been carried out over several centuries now, and as a result the shrine has accumulated countless gates, giving them the name senbondorii (“a thousand gates”). On the back of every torii gate you will see the name of the donator and the date they made their contribution. Depending on the size, it can cost between 180,000 to 1,300,000 yen for each gate, and exploring the tunnels up the mountain can take hours.
The main shrine is set at the back of the lower complex situated at the base of the mountain. After you pass the two-storied rōmon gate you will see the main shrine, a red building up a few stairs through the open stage of the prayer hall. There you can pay your respects by giving a small coin offering, ringing the bells, and praying by bowing twice, clapping twice, praying silently, and then bowing once again. Be mindful that photos of the main hall interior are not allowed and there are security guard present to enforce the no-photo policy that begins once you mount the stairs towards the main hall.
Once you travel through the vermilion torii gates you will arrive at the Okushahōhai-sho, a shrine hall where you will find two very special rocks. The rocks are called omokaru ishi (“heavy-light rocks”) and they are said to be able to predict the likelihood that you’ll achieve your dreams. First, you place a small donation into the donation box, and then make your wish in front of the rocks before picking one up. If the rock is lighter than you thought it would be, your wish might be coming true soon. However, if the rock is heavier than you thought, your wish might take quite some time before being realized.
Mt. Inari Hike
With its hiking trail, Fushimi Inari Taisha is also a great place to get your daily dose of exercise. The climb to the summit usually takes over an hour, but many visitors just climb to the Yotsutsuji intersection, which is about 45 minutes up the mountain. From the Yotsutsuji intersection you are rewarded with a panoramic view of Kyoto where you can rest and take photos. There is also a lovely café called Nishimura-tei as well as other restaurants and waystations to sit and rest at along the way that offer local fare such as inarizushi (sushi made with vinegar rice wrapped in fried tofu), tea, noodles, and other food.
In order to accommodate the numerous foreign visitors that come to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha, the shrine has set up several useful support systems.
Located near the major shrine buildings on the grounds are QR codes that can be read with a QR Code Reader application on smartphones, which take you directly to a page that explains the location in text or audio in four different languages: English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
For those who may not have a QR Code Reader, free WI-FI is available courtesy the local shopping street under the name of "Fushimi Inari Village" (伏見稲荷ヴィレッジ), so you can download one from your app store on the spot.
In addition, there is an Information Center table set up just inside the shrine's two-story gate with staff who can explain the shrine's precincts in English.
As one of the most well-known and popular shrines in all of Kyoto, even the country, Fushimi Inari Taisha has a long and impressive history at its back. One of the oldest shrines in the city, Fushimi Inari Taisha’s first buildings date back to 711 on the nearby Inariyama hill, though it is said to have already been considered an ancient spiritual location when the capital was moved from Nagaoka to Kyoto in 794. The shrine was originally founded by the prominent Hata clan, an influential family in the Kyoto basin renowned for business and sericulture, in order to enshrine the gods of rice and sake production, both of which were vital industries in the earlier agricultural age.
Fushimi Inari Taisha began receiving imperial patronage in the early Heian Period. When Emperor Murakami declared in 965 that important events and decrees should be relayed to the kami on certain occasions, it was decided that 16 shrines would receive these edicts, Fushimi Inari Taisha being one of them. With its popularity on the rise, the main shrine complex was upgraded to its current grand size in 1499 and received donations from wealthy patrons such as Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the Second Great Unifier of Japan.
Over time, as rice cultivation became a less centric force in Japanese daily life, Inari worship also began to cover business as well, and so was still well supported by parishioners now seeking success and good fortune in various business aspects. From 1871 to 1945 Fushimi Inari Taisha held the rank of kanpei-taisha, meaning it was in the top ranking of government supported shrines under the State Shinto system. Inari shrines are the most numerous across the country, estimated to number over 30,000, and Fushimi Inari Taisha serves as the headquarters of them all.
|Grand Mountain Festival (Oyama-sai)|
Coming of Age Festival (Seinen-sai)
First Day of the Horse Celebration (Hatsu-uma Taisai)
Ceremonial Flower Offering (Kenka-sai)
April, closest Sunday to the 8th
April, closest Sunday to the 20th
|Inari Festival (Inari-sai/Shinkō-sai)|
|Inari Festival (Inari-sai/Kankō-sai)|
|Rice Planting Festival (Taue-sai)|
|Summer Purification Ritual (Oharae-shiki)|
July, 4th weekend
|Ceremonial Tea Offering (Kencha-sai)|
|Rice Harvesting Festival (Nukiho-sai)|
Ceremonial Flower Offering (Kenka-sai)
|Ōhitaki-sai & Mikagura|
|Winter Purification Ritual (Oharae-shiki)|
- General Admission: Free
- General Admission: 09:00 – 17:00 (grounds open 24 hours)
- Closed: No closing days