Panorama of the Week: Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Vermillion Gates — Kyoto, Japan

Walk through the tunnel of ten thousand vermillion torii (gates) snaking their way up the mountain at Fushimi Inari Shrine outside of Kyoto and you’ll soon realize that no two are exactly the same. Look one way and you’ll see bare, unadorned orange posts. Turn the other and you’ll see the names of all the businesses or individuals who donated each gate as a sign of gratitude for their prosperity. Among the thankful, a range — from men of small business to giants of Japanese industry hailing from companies like Hitachi or Panasonic.

No business is too big to be thankful to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, sake and prosperity. Although it may be tempting to take rice for granted or to see it as digestive filler, the traditional association between rice (and sake, a rice-derivative alcohol) and prosperity endures. In Japan, rice is of both symbolic and real importance. It’s rare to have a meal without it.

Before you find yourself fighting the urge to speed through the tunnel of vermillion, be sure to spend some time below the gates at the actual Fushimi Inari Shrine, Japan’s most significant Inari site, founded in 711. There you’ll witness the flow of Japanese people of all ages praying, paying homage, writing their wishes on colorful ema boards, and buying special charms called omamori in hopes that their aspirations of finding a spouse or succeeding in an exam will someday be fulfilled.

If you are visiting Kyoto, we highly recommend taking a few hours to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine in the early morning. The light is spectacular. On your return to the station after climbing through all those torii, be sure to stop off at the Zen Buddhist complex at Tofuku-ji for a hefty dose of serenity as you gaze at its Zen rock gardens.

Now, open up the panorama below and get lost in the wonder, color and light of 10,000 vermillion gates.

Panorama: Torii (Gates) of Fushimi Inari Shrine – Kyoto, Japan

panorama directions

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Disclosure: Our Discover Japan tour was provided by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. Some, but not all, expenses were covered. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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Comments

  1. says

    Fushimi Inari was my favorite shrine I visited in Japan. We visited right after the sun went down – the whole place felt very eerie, but very cool.

  2. says

    I really enjoyed reading this, wonderful opening which perfectly conjured up the scene. Kyoto is on the wishlist (that every-growing beast of a list!)

  3. says

    I love this panorama. Fushimi Inari is one of the things I am most excited to see in Japan, never mind all of Kyoto… It has always looked so breathtaking in photos (like yours!), so I can’t wait to see it with my own eyes!

  4. Jude Boudreaux says

    This is on the very top of my list of places I must see. thanks for providing such great visual inspiration!

  5. says

    I have Japan on my list of places to visit. And reading your posts has fueled the fire. I love your panorama tool. What a brilliant idea.

  6. says

    @John: I imagine this place is also really beautiful late in the day as well. This was also one of the favorite places we visited in Japan.

    @Sass: Don’t worry, we understand that ever-growing wish list of places :) Glad we were able to add to the wanderlust!

    @Steph: Not only were the vermillion gates beautiful at Fushimi Inari, but we also really liked the shrines at the foot of the mountain. Just an overall good feel to the place. Hope you get to see it with your own eyes soon!

    @Jude: Glad we could provide a little inspiration!

    @Armands: Yes, this panorama just captures a small portion of the entire number gates. There are several areas of “tunnels” of gates around the mountain.

    @Wanda: Glad we were able to add more fuel to the travel fire :)

    @Jesse: Perhaps we should have a warning here that these panoramas are a bit addictive :) Glad you enjoyed playing around with it!

    @Alex: And it was both beautiful and peaceful in real life!

  7. says

    Japan is one of the top 10 places in my list to visit… there are few places like Dubai and Japan that i have to visit in the coming years… thank you for the details, this sounds like too beautiful and peaceful place i can ever imagine

  8. says

    When I visited Japan I never got to see this shrine in particular. I can say that every shrine i did visit was simply amazing in how they are built and the serenity that comes with it. Japan is quite interesting, in regards to Tokyo, where you travel down to Shibuya and be surrounded by hundreds of people to traveling to a japanese garden and have the most silent and peaceful moment to yourself. It would also be 10 minutes away from the chaos of people so it was really interesting to see spots like that.

  9. says

    The Incari site sounds incredible. We just covered the Incari and their influence in the Japanese culture recently and it was fascinating. It seems like you had a great trip and got to experience authentic culture. Were there a lot of tourists in those sites? Or was it a more local scene?

    Happy travels!

    Ryan

  10. says

    @Hillary: Definitely understand why Japan is one of the favorite places you have ever visited!

    @Vladimir: Hope you get to Dubai and Japan in the next few years. Haven’t been to Dubai, but imagine you won’t be disappointed by what you find in Japan.

    @Taylor: When you return to Japan for a visit, try to stop by this shrine – I think you’ll like the feel and tranquility to the place. Your description about the gardens and shrines in Tokyo is spot on – there will be masses of people and bustle on the street, but in such a short distance there will be a perfectly still and quiet garden or temple. Love the contrast between the two. And, those spots of quiet and stillness were much appreciated, too!

    @Martin: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed this.

    @Ryan: This shrine was more of a local scene – lots of Japanese school groups and families. However, some of the other temples and shrines in Kyoto were more tourist-oriented. Perhaps this is why we liked this Inari shrine so much :)

  11. says

    I LOVE this panorama feature – it’s amazing! Really makes the place come alive – and yet another reason why I need to get to Japan asap! Beautiful panorama.

  12. says

    I have been to Japan last year but only for work and no time to traval. I love the Japanese food. If I have the chance to Japan again, I will visit Fushimi Inari Shrine.

  13. says

    @Waegook: We can think of several other good reasons to get to Japan ASAP, but this is one of the most beautiful ones. Thanks for your kind words about the panorama – glad you enjoyed it!

    @Gunnar: Well, sounds like you need to return to Japan with some free time to explore. And make sure you get some time in Kyoto to visit this shrine – it’s beautiful!

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