Founded in 711 and moved to its current location in 816, Fushimi Inari-Taisha is the oldest site we visited while in Japan. I just can’t fathom 711. I can’t even imagine it – that’s how far in the past that date is. I know that the place would have looked very different at that time. The main shrine wasn’t built here until the 15th century. But still – old.
We took the train down from Gion and walked up to the shrine, which sits at the base of a mountain. We entered through a side entrance and walked around to the main archway. I was over excited again. This was because I couldn’t wait to get amongst the hundreds of ‘tori’ (鳥居) archways that the shrine is famous for. They are brilliantly red and wind their way long a 1-2 hour walk into the mountains.
The site is quite complex. It begins with a main shrine. After a walk along tori-lined paths you reach the inner shrine. The further in you go the more smaller, personal shrines you find.
Kitsune, foxes (狐), are very heavily represented here. They are considered to be the messengers of the Shinto spirit Inari, whom this shrine is named for. Inari is the patron of fertility (and rice), tea (and Sake), agriculture, industry and prosperity/success. That’s probably why millions of Japanese flock to Fushimi Inari-Taisha over the New Year period. On our lovely evening in April, there weren’t as many tourists around. The main shrine was still fairly busy, but once we walked up into the mountain the people essentially disappeared – perhaps they were on a tight schedule and didn’t have time to walk all the way up?
This was also the part of the trip where I found the most respectful tourists. Everybody, of course, wanted a photo alone with a long path of red arches disappearing off behind them. In little clusters everyone would stop, take turns taking photos, and then hurriedly move on. I really want to thank everyone who visited that day. They were all awesome.
We could have been alone! And, indeed, sometimes we were! We wandered back down to the train station just as the sun was going down, super glad we took plenty of time here. Visiting it last was also an advantage because a lot of people must have been heading to find dinner or finishing their toursiting for the day. There is no fee to enter the shrine complex, but you can throw a coin to make a prayer or purchase a tori to hang with your wish on.
By the time we got back to town the sun was really gone. We wandered around the Gion area to accomplish our last task – find a Maiko or Geisha. It didn’t take long. They are simply gorgeous, aren’t they?
With all our major tasks completed we caught a 6.30 p.m. back to Osaka and began packing for the great move to Tokyo!