The Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine is located in Fushimi-ku in Kyoto, around one hour walk along the river or 20 mins by train from Shijō Street. Shijō Street is the main shopping street in Kyoto which leads to the Yasaka Shrine. There is no way to miss that one.
The shrine is on the base of the Inari mountain which is 233 metres above sea level. The Fushimi Inari-taisha site includes a trail up the Inari mountain which takes around two hours to walk and passes by lots of smaller shrines. The trail is very scenic and much more peaceful compared to the main shrine which generally is overcrowded by tourists.
The earliest parts of the Fushimi Inari-taisha site were built in 711 on a different hill in the south west of Kyoto and then relocated in 816. The main shrine structure was built much later, in 1499. The main gate and the main shrine of the Fushimi Inari-taisha site are located at the bottom of the hill. The inner shrine is located in the middle of the mountain which can be reached by a path through thousands of gates (toriis).
The Torii Path
Once you have passed by the huge shrines at the beginning of the Fushimi Inari-taisha you will eventually walk through the torii path. A torii is a traditional Japanese gate that is usually located at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine. The torii path at the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine is a collection of thousands of torii gates lined up behind each other. Have a look at this blog post to view more photos of the famous torii path.
The Fox Sculptures at Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine
Walking through the Fushimi Inari-taisha site you will notice a huge fox sculpture near the stairs leading up to the torii path and various smaller fox figures throughout the trail up the mountain. Foxes are said to be messengers and are often found in Inari shrines.
Inari has been depicted as both male and female and is a popular deity with shrines throughout most of Japan. The most famous depictions of Inari are a young food goddess and an old man carrying rice. Amongst other various depictions, Inari is also often believed to be a fox though there is no one correct depiction of Inari. The preferred depiction and gender differs according to the regional beliefs and traditions.
The worship of the Inari deity is believed to have its origin in the founding of the shrine at the Inari mountain.
Walking Up the Inari Mountain
After passing through the main torii path (you will notice when you are in it!) there will be the option to walk a trail that leads up the Inari mountain. For me this walk was the best part of visiting the Inari shrine. It is such a peaceful walk with so much to discover. I took hundreds of photos. For more information and photos, have a look at this post about the Inari trail.
Around the Entrance of the Fushimi Inari-taisha site
You will find lots of little food stalls on the way from the train station to the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. They are perfect for getting a little snack before and after your visit. And make sure to buy some water before you start your two-hour walk up and down the Inari mountain!