In Japan, one can explore the indigenous faith called “Shinto.” As a symbol of this indigenous faith, there is a gate called “Torii,” which is often used as a symbol representing Japan. One place where you can see these Torii gates extending in a long row is the “Fushimi Inari Shrine.”
“Fushimi Inari Taisha (ふしみいなりたいしゃ)”
In Japanese, a shrine is referred to as “Taisha.” Therefore, the official name of this place is “Fushimi Inari Taisha.” Located in the southern part of Kyoto, Japan, it serves as the headquarters of a shrine dedicated to “Inari,” the deity of rice, agriculture, and prosperity.
As a result, Fushimi Inari Taisha is known for having the highest number of visitors in the Kinki region during the first shrine visit of the New Year and, as of 2010, ranks fourth in terms of the number of visitors among shrines throughout Japan.
“Founded in 711 to Enshrine the Guardian Deity of the Hata Clan”
This shrine is said to have originated in 711 when Hata no Iroko no Okimi enshrined the guardian deity of the Hata clan on the three peaks of Mount Inari. According to historical records, the Hata clan were immigrants who arrived from Baekje, an ancient kingdom in Korea. However, there are also theories suggesting that the Hata clan originated from Gaya, another ancient Korean kingdom, or were immigrants from the Silla kingdom. Regardless, it is conjectured that they were descendants of immigrants from the Korean Peninsula.
The main shrine building at this location was destroyed during the Ōnin War but was reconstructed in 1499.
“Famous for the Fox Shrine, Fushimi Inari Taisha”
This place is also known as the Fox Shrine. The Ema, wooden plaques where wishes are written, found here are shaped like foxes. However, this shrine doesn’t worship a fox deity; it honors the deity “Ukanomitama” associated with Inari, and the fox is merely a messenger. This has led to a misconception that Fushimi Inari Taisha worships a fox deity.
“The Continuous Line of Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine”
What made this place famous is not the main shrine or other buildings but the continuous line of Torii gates. When you visit this place, you will see a substantial number of Torii gates extending endlessly.
These Torii gates are like tunnels near the shrine and continue along the hiking trails leading up the mountain. Climbing these trails creates an illusion of walking through a tunnel. Due to this unique feature, you can experience a sense of wonder as you climb.
“Why Are There So Many Torii Gates at the Shrine?”
The reason for the abundance of Torii gates is simple. Throughout history, people have dedicated these gates to the shrine as a symbol of wish fulfillment or in gratitude for wishes that have been granted. As people have consistently dedicated Torii gates over the years, the area around the shrine is now filled with them.
In reality, as you climb the mountain, signs indicating the price for dedicating a Torii gate can be found. They are categorized into five sizes, each with slightly different prices. However, it was clear that dedicating a Torii gate is not a cheap endeavor.
Even Japanese high school students nearby were heard commenting on the prices, expressing that it was “expensive.”
“Torii Gates Continue Endlessly Along the Hiking Trail to the Summit”
Since I had already arrived at Mount Inari, I decided to venture to the summit with the mindset of exploring it. Initially, looking at the signposts depicting the direction, it seemed that the distance was not too far. However, once I started ascending, I realized that the signposts only indicated the direction and did not accurately represent the distance.
After about ten minutes of continuous ascent, without taking a break, I checked the next signpost. To my surprise, it seemed that I had barely moved about 1mm according to the illustration. Although momentarily disheartened, I persisted in climbing, and suddenly, after around two hours of steady climbing, I encountered a signpost indicating an incredibly significant distance covered.
Nevertheless, despite the challenging climb, after about two hours, I finally reached the summit. Along the way, I passed through Torii gates, offering a complete view of Fushimi Inari Taisha.
“Scenic View of Kyoto City from Mount Inari”
The view of Kyoto City from the top of the mountain was also quite pleasant. One thing that became apparent was that as I got closer to the summit, the number of people dwindled. Near the shrine, there were too many people, making it challenging to take pictures and causing some discomfort due to the crowds. However, as I ascended to higher altitudes, I felt a relative serenity, with fewer people around.
After two visits, I finally had the chance to explore Fushimi Inari Taisha thoroughly. On the first visit, I couldn’t climb the mountain due to a typhoon, but on the second visit, I was fortunate enough to explore both the shrine and the mountain.
“Japan, Kyoto Fushimi Inari Taisha”
- Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan
- Phone: +81 75-641-7331
- Operating Hours: 24 hours
- Website: Fushimi Inari Taisha