Japan’s most famous image, of thousands of vermilion torii gates stretching towards a vanishing point, is more than just an Insta-worthy snapshot. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is dedicated to the fox-friendly Shinto god of the harvest, Inari, and the sprawling mountainside complex has a wealth of sights to keep your camera busy.
The ubiquitous vulpine iconography stems from Inari’s use of foxes as messengers, and you will find them dotted around the landscape. Statues of foxes (kitsune) are commonly found with a key in their mouths, for the rice granaries they guard, and fox-shaped wishing plaques (ema) are left throughout the shrine by visitors to pass along their prayers to the local spirits (kami).
You could spend hours meandering up the mountain behind the shrine, taking breaks at the restaurants offering delicious dishes unique to the area, but even a small hike can to the Yotsutsuji intersection will deliver great views without needing to scale to the summit.
Fushimi is easily reached from Kyoto station, and can be a stopover on the way to Nara or Uji – though we can organise a guided half-day tour here too. This is best combined with a stop at the nearby Gekkeikan Sake Museum to learn about the brewing of this rice-based beverage – and, naturally, try some for yourself.