This beautiful destination is still not that famous among Western travelers, but for how long?
Upon exiting Inari train station, the entrance of Fushimi Inari Taisha can be seen. This is the largest Shinto shrine in Japan dedicated to the goddess of rice, Inari. It is also associated with wealth, hence the presence of thousands of torii, these vermilion gates. The place can be seen in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha.
At the bottom, there are some small shrines but the real attraction of the area is the hiking trail that opens into the valley. Over a period of about two hours at a normal pace, it traces a few kilometers walk between trees and over ten thousand torii. The most famous part is this short path of several tens of meters at the bottom, with its portals well maintained. Many people can be seen here taking pictures but the higher you go, the less you hear heels snapping!
Contrary to what one might think, the torii are funded by businessmen, corporations or large company groups. On the back of each of them, their name and date of installation are written. For the anecdote, it costs about 1.3 million yen for the most visible. If you do not read Japanese, they can be quite aesthetic, but don't forget it's still a form of advertising. Especially since all the torii are not as well maintained as those below. Many have lost their bright and some have even been uprooted.
The tour is very nice, with places to rest and restaurants along the hike, accompanied by some rare shops. All along the way, one can contemplate torii of all sizes, it's pretty fun. Moreover, shops along the way sell, but at a rather prohibitive price (about ¥2.500 for smaller ones). Finally, for Internet addicts, free wifi is available a few meters after the summit (233 meters), but it is well hidden!
How to get to Fushimi Inari Taisha
By train -- JR Nara local line, stop at Inari (5 minutes from Kyoto Station, ¥140 / ~US$ 1.30 without JR Pass)
By bus -- 南5 (kanji reads "minami" and means "south"), stop at Inaritaishamae (about 10 minutes, ¥220 / ~US$ 2.00)
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 271)
How long / when to visit
Allow half a day or even a short day
Fushimi Inari Shrine