Fushimi 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?