Its iconic appearance attracts millions of visitors each year. The tunnel of red gates (Senbon Torii) at Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari shrine is one of Japan’s most popular tourist sites. Located on the western slope of Mt. Inari, it is a bewildering maze of shrines, cemeteries, and mounds, containing hundreds of thousands of red Torii. You can spend hours and hours there without running out of hidden places and winding corners to explore. There are several small inns on the grounds where you can take a break and recharge your batteries.
In 2005, the Torii tunnel was used as a film set for the Hollywood movie “Memoirs of a Geisha.” The film introduced the site to a whole new audience and further boosted its popularity. Since then, Fushimi Inari has been extremely busy. In the days leading up to COVID-19, it was often packed with visitors by 9:00 a.m. at the latest.
Since it is open around the clock, you can always beat the crowds by going early or after dark. At night, the shrine has a slightly spooky atmosphere, which is an interesting contrast to the hustle and bustle of the day.
At first glance, some visitors may find the complex’s intricate layout and its sheer size a bit intimidating. Conveniently enough, the famous Torii tunnel is just a short walk from the entrance. Most tourists just check it out and leave it at that. Accordingly, the more remote parts of the shrine are much quieter. These areas are accessible through a network of paths and stairs that lead up to the summit of Mt. Inari, loosely sheltered by red Torii.
Getting to Fushimi Inari
The place is served by two train stations: Inari on the JR Nara line and Fushimi-Inari on the Keihan main line. Both are just a short hop from their respective main hubs, Kyoto Station and Sanjo-Keihan.