10,000 Temples: Top Reasons to Visit Kyoto

10,000 Reasons to Visit Kyoto

Asia has a million temples and shrines, and one looks just like another after a while. If I didn’t take notes or pick up a flyer, I’d have no idea which. However, I have regained a new appreciation for torii gates and the color orange after visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha, the head shrine of Shinto God Inari.

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10,000 Reasons to Visit Kyoto

 

 

You may not know it by name but you’ve definitely seen a picture or two of it. The Fushima Inari-taisha Shinto Shrine in Kyoto is a beautiful bright orange shrine that includes several small temples. And a dramatic stroll to a mountaintop temple has a wonderful view of it all.

What makes Fushimi Inari Shrine special is pretty straightforward. It has ten thousand donated torii gates leading to the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari. The gates have Japanese characters inscribed on them. Inscriptions include the names of the donors and the dates in which the toriis were donated. Inari is the patron of fertility, rice, tea, and sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success and according to my research, most of the donations came from Japanese business hoping for success, which makes sense as to why their names appear on the backside of the gates.

 

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Temple Structures

 
Every building, torii gate, and signpost is bright orange and stands in great contrast against today’s light blue sky. The sun streaks between the posts, creating several hue changes and shadows that add another dimension to the structures depending on where you stand.
 
 
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Temple Symbols 

 

The temple shrines are guarded by statues of Foxes which are believed to be “messengers” of Inari Okami. The statues hold a symbolic item in their mouths or beneath their front paw—most often a jewel and a key, but a sheaf of rice, a scroll, or a fox cub is also common. Almost all Inari shrines, no matter how small, will feature at least a pair of foxes, one male and female, usually flanking or on the altar or in front of the main sanctuary.

The statues are really realistic;  portraying a seated animal with its tail in the air looking forward. Despite these common characteristics, the statues are highly individual in nature; no two are quite the same.

 

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Torii Gates

Upon entering the site you will notice the largest torii gate at the Fushimi Inari Taisha, an indication of what to come. The path is paved and relatively easy. It is covered by these beautiful columns (torii gates), blank on the side up and covered in writing on the way down.

 

Tip #1… Go first thing in the morning.

 

The mob was unbearable and affected my photographs as well as my zen. I had to wait forever to get a shot without people in it and then make it fast to keep it that way. In the end, I gave up and just took in the beauty of the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine.

 
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Tip #2… camera phone is not gonna cut it, bring your camera and a wide-angle lens. You may also want to bring a filter or lens hood.

 
 

Tip #3… Be creative. This Fushimi Inari Taisha has been photographed a million times… have fun.

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How to Get There:

Take the JR Nara line at Kyoto Station, it’s a few steps just outside the JR Inari station. You can’t miss the orange torii gate across the street and it’s absolutely free.

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Comments

  1. Ashley

    Oh how I love Kyoto! The tip on arriving early is essential! I went at 630 am to avoid those crowds after attempting to go later the day prior and not being able to handle it. Total zen ruiner!! Looks like you were patient and got some shots in though.

  2. Kayla Manoe

    Yes it was such a great sight wasn’t it ! We went first thing in the morning and were able to get some photos without people which is always nice! We also thought about going at night to capture some different shots but ran out of time! Always next time i guess 🙂 x

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