Discover the Enchanting Kyoto Fushimi Inari Taisha: History, Features, and Access.

Fushimi Inari Taisha, located in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, is considered the head shrine of around 30,000 Inari shrines nationwide.
The entire Inariyama (Inari Mountain) is sacred to the shrine, and exploring every nook gives you a bit of a mountain-climbing experience.
The pathway with thousands of torii gates is popular not only among locals but also among tourists from around the world.
The sight of countless gates lining the path is truly impressive.

In this article, we’ll introduce the charm and highlights of Fushimi Inari Taisha, including its history and how to get there, for both locals and international visitors.

Essential Information about Fushimi Inari Taisha

In Japan, the ancient Inari faith originated here on Mount Inari.
In the year 711 during the Nara period, the deity Inari Okami was enshrined on Mount Inari, marking its beginnings.
The term ‘Inari’ refers to the god overseeing food and the abundance of the harvest.

Since the Heian period, it has been widely revered, and the white fox has become its sacred messenger.

The Inari deity, found throughout the country, now boasts around 30,000 shrines, making it one of the most accessible and familiar Shinto shrines.

Inari is believed to bring not only bountiful harvests but also prosperity in business, household safety, and the fulfillment of various wishes.
It’s a shrine you’d want to visit not only for New Year’s prayers but also at significant milestones in life.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

  • Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-0882, Japan
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • JR Nara Line – Inari Station (right at the station)
    • Keihan Main Line – Fushimi Inari Station (5 minutes on foot)
  • Phone: 075-641-7331
  • Visiting Hours:
    • Shrine: Open 24 hours
    • Prayer Hours: 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (Reception closes around 4:00 PM)
    • Charm and Amulet Distribution: 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Admission: Free
  • Official Website: Fushimi Inari Taisha

The history of Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha, celebrating its 1300th anniversary in 2011, holds a rich history since its establishment.
Let me briefly share the journey it has taken from its founding until today.

The origins of Fushimi Inari Taisha

There are various theories about the founding of Fushimi Inari Taisha, but the most well-known story comes from the local records, “Yamashiro no Kuni Fudoki,” specifically the section titled “Inari-sha Jo.”
According to this account, a prosperous farmer named Hatano-Irogu tried shooting arrows at mochi (rice cakes).
One of the mochi transformed into a white swan and flew away, eventually landing on the peak of a mountain where rice plants started growing.
In response, a shrine was built on that spot, named Inari (meaning rice) in reference to the rice’s origin.

The exact date of this event is not recorded, but the genealogy of the Inari Shrine’s head priest family, the Ōnishi clan, notes that Hatano-Irogu became a shrine priest in February of the first day of the month in the year 711, during the fourth year of the Wado era.

The Spread of Inari Worship in Heian Era

During the Heian period, the worship of Inari flourished.
It was during this time that Inari Shrine came to be known as “Inari.”

In the year 827, Emperor Junna fell seriously ill.
Seeking the cause, diviners revealed that the illness was a result of cutting down the sacred trees on Inari Mountain to build a five-story pagoda at Tō-ji, a temple of the Shingon sect.
To appease the divine wrath, the imperial court apologized to the deity of Inari Mountain and honored Inari Ōkami with the prestigious title of “Jugoi” (Fifth Rank).

From then on, Fushimi Inari Taisha garnered widespread devotion as a prominent deity of good fortune in the southeast, earning the highest divine rank of “Shōichi’i” (First Rank) in the year 942 during the Tenkei era.

Revival from the Ashes in the Muromachi Era

Fushimi Inari Taisha, which thrived during the Heian period, faced a significant setback during the Onin War that lasted for approximately 11 years starting in the first year of the Ōnin era (1467).
The majority of the shrine’s structures were destroyed in the fires of this conflict.

Subsequently, thanks to efforts such as the missionary activities led by Inari Kanshinso (Inari promoting monks), restoration work for the main hall began in the first year of the Meio era (1492).
About 30 years after the destruction, in the eighth year of Meio (1499), the main hall and other shrine buildings were finally reconstructed.

The Flourishing Dedication of Thousands of Torii Gates in Edo Era

During the Edo period, not only did the Imperial Court’s devotion to Inari soar, but the shogunate also witnessed the blossoming of Inari worship.

This surge can be largely attributed to the Inari faith of the Edo shogunate’s chief councilor, Okitsugu Tanuma.
As the story goes, Tanuma’s rise in status was linked to the enshrinement of Inari deities in his residence.
Inspired by his success, other samurai followed suit, dedicating Inari shrines in their homes.
This trend quickly spread among the common people.

By the late Edo period, the dedication of thousands of torii gates began, signifying the successful fulfillment of wishes.
This practice continued to thrive into the Meiji era.

Even today, dedicating torii gates remains immensely popular.
When spaces become available due to wear or other reasons, individuals who have made reservations can consecutively set up their own torii gates.

The characteristics of Fushimi Inari Taisha

Next, let’s explore the famous Thousand Torii Gates and foxes at Fushimi Inari Taisha.

The Senbon Torii

One of the most captivating features at Fushimi Inari is the spectacular “Senbon Torii” or “Thousand Torii Gates.”
This iconic attraction defines Fushimi Inari Taisha and has become a must-visit destination in Kyoto, drawing tourists from around the world.

The grounds of Fushimi Inari Taisha, spanning from the base to the mountaintop on the western slope of Inariyama, are vast, equivalent to about 22 Koshien Stadiums.
It’s said that there are around 10,000 torii gates in total.

Within this expanse, the term “Senbon Torii” refers to the section where thousands of torii gates stand, covering approximately 400 meters from the inner shrine to the main hall of worship.

Are there really a thousand torii gates in the Senbon Torii?

Actually, when we say “Senbon Torii,” it’s a figure of speech meaning “a lot” or “thousands.”
The number isn’t fixed because some torii gates are removed for renovation, replaced, or newly donated.
According to those who have counted while visiting, there are around 800 gates or so currently standing.

Why are there so many torii gates here?

In fact, all these vermilion torii gates within the shrine grounds are donations.
It all started back in the Meiji era when people began building these gates as a way to make their wishes come true.
So, the torii gates represent both the physical gates and the metaphorical gates through which wishes are believed to ‘pass.’
The growing number is a result of people continually making dedications as they make their wishes.

Inari Okami and the Divine Fox Messengers

When it comes to Fushimi Inari Taisha, it’s famous for having many fox statues within its grounds.
Because of this, some people might mistakenly think that Inari Okami is a fox deity, but in reality, that’s not the case!

The Deities and Blessings of Fushimi Inari Taisha

At the main hall of Fushimi Inari Taisha, instead of fox deities, you’ll find the enshrinement of five kami (deities).

  1. Tanaka Okami
  2. Satahiko Okami
  3. Ukano Mitama Okami
  4. Oomiyanome Okami
  5. Shino Okami

The term ‘Inari Okami’ at Fushimi Inari Taisha encompasses these five deities.
While widely revered for prosperity in agriculture and business, they are also believed to bring blessings for safe travels, academic success, and childbirth.

It’s worth noting that the primary deity is Ukano Mitama Okami.

The Connection Between Fushimi Inari Taisha and Foxes

At Fushimi Inari Taisha, the presence of fox statues is due to the belief that foxes serve as messengers for the Inari deities.

However, these aren’t the typical foxes we might imagine.
The foxes enshrined at Fushimi Inari Taisha are called ‘Byakko’ or white foxes, and they are believed to be invisible, much like the deities they serve.

This is why the fox talismans and merchandise at Fushimi Inari Taisha often feature a white color, symbolizing the transparency of these spiritual beings.

Points of Interest at Fushimi Inari Taisha

After seeing what we’ve covered so far, many of you might be thinking about checking out the iconic Senbon Torii gates and fox statues when you visit Fushimi Inari Taisha, right?

But there’s much more to explore at Fushimi Inari Taisha!

To make your visit even more enjoyable, we’ve compiled some other highlights for you to consider.
Take a look before you make your way there!

Romon

The entrance gate to Fushimi Inari Taisha, known as the Romon, was donated by the famous Sengoku-era warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who unified the country.

In gratitude for the recovery of his mother, Lady Yodo, Hideyoshi vowed to donate 10,000 koku (a unit of rice) to the shrine.
After his wish was fulfilled, the gate was constructed in the year 1589.

In 1973, extensive restoration work was carried out, and now it stands as one of the largest shrine gates in Japan, boasting impressive dimensions of about 10 meters in width and 15 meters in height.

Honden

The main hall, designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 1909 (Meiji 42), is the sacred space where the five deities mentioned earlier are enshrined.

The building is adorned with lavish decorations that evoke the history of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.
It’s a point of interest that we highly recommend you take a closer look at!

white foxes (fox statues)

As mentioned earlier, within the precincts of Fushimi Inari Taisha, you’ll find various fox statues known as ‘white foxes.’

These fox statues come in different expressions and poses, offering a rich variety.
Some fox statues even hold rice sheaves, keys, jewels, or scrolls in their mouths.
So, when you explore the grounds, be sure to check out the charming white foxes!

Senbon Torii

The renowned Senbon Torii, a major attraction at Fushimi Inari Taisha, is located along the pathway from the main hall to the inner shrine.

The vibrant vermillion color of the torii gates, known as “Inari red,” symbolizes the divine presence of Inari Okami.

While many might expect a literal thousand gates, the actual count is around 800 gates.
The term “Senbon Torii,” meaning “thousands of torii gates,” stems from the idea of ‘countless’ gates rather than an exact thousand.

In addition to the large torii gates, there are also about 10,000 small torii gates donated by worshippers dedicated to Inari faith, creating a truly impressive sight at Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Okusha Hohaisyo

Heading east from the main hall through the Senbon Torii gates, you’ll come across the Okusha Hohaisyo, also known as the Inner Shrine.
It’s a spot for worshiping from a distance the sacred Inariyama, often referred to as the “inner sanctuary.”

Here, you’ll find ema (wooden wishing plaques) shaped like fox faces, displaying various illustrations of foxes drawn by visitors.

Furthermore, at the Inner Shrine, you can obtain limited edition goshuin (temple/shrine seals) and protective amulets, so for those collecting them, be sure to visit the Inner Shrine’s office as well.

omokaru ishi

When you visit the Inner Shrine, make sure to try the ‘omokaru ishi,’ a divination stone.
‘Omo’ means heavy, and ‘karu’ means light.

This stone is used to predict whether your wishes will come true.
If the stone feels lighter than expected when you lift it, it’s believed your wish will be granted.
On the other hand, if it feels heavier, achieving your wish might be more challenging.

Nemagari-matsu

Further along from the Inner Shrine, you’ll find pine trees known as ‘Nemagari-matsu’ or ‘Hizamatsu,’ where the roots are lifted above the ground.

These trees, with roots resembling a rise in value, attract visits from those involved in securities and stocks, thanks to a play on words, ‘Waiting for the rise.’

Additionally, there’s a tradition linked to these raised-root pines.
It’s believed that if you stroke the tree and then your aching body part, the pain will subside.

Mount Inari

While most tourists visit only the Inner Shrine, if you’ve made the journey to Fushimi Inari Taisha, why not take on the challenge of the ‘Okuyama-meguri’ or ‘Mountain Pilgrimage’?

From the main hall at the base of Mount Inari to the summit of Ichinomine, you’ll encounter numerous mounds, torii gates, and ‘shinseki’ believed to be sites where gods resided, all donated by countless people over the years.

Circling Mount Inari while visiting these spots is what we call the ‘Mountain Pilgrimage.’

The sub-shrines and mounds along the way offer various blessings beyond prosperity in business and abundant harvest, making it highly recommended for those seeking a spiritual boost!

However, be aware that Mount Inari has steep slopes and uneven terrain, so it’s advisable to wear comfortable shoes for the pilgrimage.

Additionally, the round trip covers about 4 km, and considering the time for worship, it may take 2 to 3 hours. If you have limited visitation time, plan accordingly!

Access to Fushimi Inari Taisha

Let’s explore how to get to the Fushimi Inari Taisha.
I’ll guide you on how to reach it from Kyoto Station.

From JR Kyoto Station

Let’s start by explaining how to get from JR Kyoto Station to the Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Fushimi Inari Taisha is situated on the southern side of Kyoto Station, in the Fushimi ward, which is different from many other major tourist spots within Kyoto city.
However, it’s not too far from Kyoto Station in terms of distance.

Access to Fushimi Inari Taisha

Mode of TransportTravel TimeFare
City Bus (South Line 5)About 20 min230 yen
JRAbout 6 min150 yen
TaxiAbout 15 min1,500-1,700 yen

In terms of transportation options:

  • JR Line: The basic, fastest, and most economical route that takes you right in front of Fushimi Inari.
  • City Bus: Useful when using the “One-Day Pass,” but otherwise, there’s not much advantage. The bus stop is located a bit farther away.

In general, except when using the “One-Day Pass” for Kyoto City Bus and Subway, it’s usually more convenient to use the JR Line.

City Bus (South Line 5)

How to Get to Fushimi Inari Taisha Using City Bus (South Line 5)
RouteKyoto Station Bus Terminal to Inari Taisha-mae Bus Stop
Bus StopKyoto Station Front “C4” Bus Stop
Line/DestinationSouth Line 5 “Inari Taisha, Takeda Station East Exit”
FrequencyApproximately every 30 minutes during the day
FareAdults: 230 yen, Children: 120 yen
※”Subway and Bus One-Day Pass” and similar passes are accepted
DurationBus travel time: Approximately 16 minutes
※It’s about a 5-minute walk eastward from the “Inari Taisha-mae” bus stop to Fushimi Inari Taisha.

While the bus service to Fushimi Inari Shrine may have fewer departures, higher fares, and longer travel times compared to the JR train line, it’s generally more convenient to use the JR line.
The bus stop is also farther from Fushimi Inari Shrine compared to JR Inari Station.

However, if you have a pass like the “Subway and Bus One-Day Pass” for unlimited rides within Kyoto city, using the bus, despite its disadvantages, might be recommended since there’s no additional charge, unlike the JR line.

JR

How to Get to Fushimi Inari Taisha Using JR Line
RouteJR Kyoto Station to JR Inari Station
PlatformPlatforms 8, 9, 10 at JR Kyoto Station (Nara Line)
Train“Local train to Nara,” “Local train to Joyo,” “Local train to Uji”
※Please be aware that “Miyakoji Rapid” and “Rapid” trains do not stop at Inari Station, except for some special stops during the New Year period.
FrequencyApproximately every 15 minutes (about 4 trains per hour)
FareAdults: 150 yen, Children: 70 yen
DurationApproximately 5 minutes
※In front of JR Inari Station is the approach to Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Many foreign tourists accidentally head towards Rokujizo and Uji instead.
It’s quite common, so be sure to take the “Local Train.”

Please note that certain days and times, including those with foreign tourists, can be crowded.
However, since the travel time is short, it’s not a significant issue.

Taxi

How to Get to Fushimi Inari Taisha Using Taxi
DistanceApproximately 3.9 km.
Fare1,500-1,700 yen
DurationApproximately 15 minutes

Conclusion

Fushimi Inari Taisha, one of Kyoto’s iconic shrines, boasts a history dating back over 1300 years. It venerates Inari, the god of rice, and is renowned for its striking feature: thousands of vermilion torii gates lining the pathway.
Walking through the “Senbon Torii,” or the path of a thousand gates, is a must-try, offering a blend of history and scenic beauty.

The main attraction is the climb through these vibrant gates, creating a unique and spiritual atmosphere.
Along the way, you’ll encounter various shrines and altars, immersing yourself in the sacred ambiance.

Conveniently accessible from JR Inari Station and Keihan Electric Railway’s Fushimi Inari Station, the shrine welcomes both tourists and local worshippers.
The surrounding area is filled with traditional shops and eateries, providing an opportunity to experience local culture.
Fushimi Inari Taisha, resonating with Kyoto’s rich history and culture, is an essential destination for foreign travelers.

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