Fushimi Inari Taisha – A Blaze of Orange in Kyoto

Fushimi Inari TaishaFushimi Inari Taisha was my favourite place to visit in Kyoto and a highlight of my trip to Japan. Hypnotic, colourful, mesmerising and unique.  Visually, it’s so striking you’ll have a hard time ever forgetting it. If you’ve watched Memoirs of a Geisha, you might recognise it as one of the locations used in the film.

It’s difficult to describe Fushimi Inari Taisha as a mere Shinto Shrine. That’s like describing Picasso as just a painter. Fushimi Inari is a vast complex of shrines and thousands of shrine gates (known as torii) spread across an entire mountain in Southeast Kyoto.  It’s a unique sight to say the least.

Fushimi Inari mountain shrine

I had all ambition of climbing Mount Inari but my attempt to reach the top was squashed three quarters of the way up after the heavens well and truly opened. If I had the hindsight of bringing an umbrella with me or had been equipped with waterproof clothing, I would have trudged all the way up to the top. But I was wearing a dress with tights and a wooly top, not exactly what you want to be caught up in the rain wearing. Plus, every girl should understand this… I wasn’t wearing waterproof mascara either.

Luckily, walking back down under the tunnel-like torii gates proved decent shelter, and the next best thing to an umbrella.

Shinto Shrine, Kyoto Japan

I met a trio of Japanese girls dressed in exquisite kimonos. We walked together for a little while after I saw them trying to take a group photo, I asked if I could help and they appeared happy that I offered. It was also the perfect opportunity for me to take some photos of them. I felt really lucky because they were each so beautiful and they looked even more amazing against the vermilion torii gates.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Geisha

It’s really popular for Japanese girls to dress up in kimonos as a form of fancy dress, it’s almost a novelty for them as it would be for a foreigner. Seeing the girls made me wish that I was travelling with someone else so I could get away dressing up like a Geisha or at least experience what it’s like to dress up in a kimono with all the heavy material. Doing it on your own feels more ridiculous than it does entertaining!

I’ve read that Fushimi Inari Taisha can get extremely busy in the height of the season, luckily it was okay when I visited but had it been any busier, the wonder and pleasure of exploring this place would have been significantly hindered. I suggest visiting really early in the morning or late in the afternoon after the crowds lessen, at this time you should be able to take photos without hoards of people getting in the way too!

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto Shrine

One of the things about my trip to Asia that stood out, was the amount of people I saw with selfie sticks, and Japan was probably the worst offender. They are everywhere. You cannot hide from them. It looks like a parody seeing so many Japanese girls in traditional kimonos stopping for a photo shoot with a selfie stick! Sometimes you have to really watch where you’re going if you don’t want to be hit by one of those things.

You might have guessed I’m not the biggest fan of the selfie stick, but at the same time they do amuse me, and I do enjoy taking sneaky photos of other people taking selfies! I’m sure I’m not the only one….?

Although selfie sticks do have there uses when travelling solo, I’ve found one of the best things you can do to open up conversations with strangers is to ask them if they’ll take your photo. Often this does mean you won’t quite get the photo you want, the horizon is wonky, your legs are cut off at your ankles, you’ve got a double chin. However, in Japan, I discovered the Japanese are solid photographers!

Fushimi inari, kyoto japan

This Shrine is only steps away from the JR station which made it convenient to find, and there is no entrance cost so I have to give it double brownie points.

Would you like to visit the seemingly endless arcades of orange gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto?



A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.

'Fushimi Inari Taisha – A Blaze of Orange in Kyoto' have 9 comments

  1. May 6, 2015 @ 8:35 am Ted

    I notice writing on one side, but not the other, or is that a different set of orange? Selfie sticks amuse me too 😉


    • May 8, 2015 @ 8:38 pm admin

      Correct! One side has Japanese characters carved into the toriis, I can’t even conceive how long it must have taken to create all of these! I regret not asking someone if they could translate a small section for me…


  2. May 6, 2015 @ 4:26 pm Emma

    It is a stunning place. I didn’t make it to the top either, but that was due to me not leaving enough time. I think to get away from most of the crowds you need to go up higher.
    Selfie sticks look ridiculous, however, they are a great help if wanting to get a shot of yourself either solo or as a couple without having to disturb other people to do it for you, it allows you to get background in unlike just stretching out your arm. I don’t know, I’m a bit undecided about them.


    • May 11, 2015 @ 9:46 am admin

      Hi Emma! That’s true, the higher you get the less tourists there are!

      Selfie sticks definitely come in handy when you’re solo travelling, at times I could have done with one, especially for the reason of wanting to get the background in. It’s seeing people using them in inconvenient or unnecessary places like airports or shopping centres which leave me questioning their function!


  3. May 7, 2015 @ 6:54 am Lily La

    I never made it here during my time in Kyoto and I’m regretting it now. I love how bright and orange it is! Great photographs, Shing 🙂


    • May 11, 2015 @ 9:52 am admin

      But now you have another reason to return? 😉 I can’t wait to go back to Japan, it completely won me over!


  4. May 12, 2015 @ 7:17 am Nigel Hywel-Jones

    It’s a pity you couldn’t get ‘dressed up’. My wife and I were in Japan in 2000. The accommodation (for international researchers) had a cultural evening. Rung and I both got dressed up in traditional Japanese wedding gear. Even my Japanese colleagues admitted they wore western dress when they got married. Rung (being Asian) looked the part. I looked uncomfortable.

    As for selfie sticks…. They were all the rage in Shanghai when I was there last month with my daughter. Vendors were thrusting them constantly in your face. Not surprisingly my daughter got one and, like you, I enjoyed taking pictures of Mon taking selfies.


    • May 15, 2015 @ 3:23 pm admin

      Hi Nigel! I know, I missed out not getting dressed up. But on the bright side, now I have more reasons to return! I bet you and your wife looked awesome! It’s interesting to read that your Japanese colleagues all wore western dress on their wedding day…. When I read this I realised I didn’t even know what a traditional Japanese wedding dress looked like. In case you don’t either, it’s a white silk kimono, and to be honest it doesn’t look anywhere near as beautiful as the colourful patterned kimonos. (And at the risk of being too honest… it looks like something the Pope wears!)

      Did your daughter enjoy Shanghai? I hope you both had a great time, with or without the selfie sticks! 😀


      • May 16, 2015 @ 3:12 pm Nigel Hywel-Jones

        Hmmmm. How can I send you a picture of Rung and me in trad Japanese wedding attire? Because what Rung was wearing was very colourful. 15 kg of silk as I recall for the top (seventh) covering.

        Mon (our daughter) enjoyed Shanghai. Her only previous foreign experience was four years living in Bhutan which was totally different.

        I have not been back to Japan in ten years and miss it. I hope you get back soon. It is just about my number one country – out of 23 visited.


Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.

Copyright © 2016 Shing Lin Yoong | All Rights Reserved | Designed by Paradigm Creations | Links