I woke early that morning. My plan was to go to the ancient Fushimi-Inari Shrine and I wanted to beat the crowds. The earliest structures at Fushimi-Inari were built in 711 and the main structure in 1499. The shrine was dedicated to the God of rice and sake. In addition to the thousands of torii there are numerous fox statues. The fox is said to be the messenger of the god of grain foods. It was important that I get there early because I really wanted to get that shot, the one where you stare into an endless tunnel of bright orange torii and you can feel how special the place is, mysterious, almost magical. Of course to get that shot you can’t have tourists milling about, no, tourists do not equal magic. I dressed quickly in the dark so as not to wake my family, grabbed my gear, and headed out. It wasn’t until I was in the lobby that I realized it was raining. And not just a little drizzle but a steady not so fun to take pictures in kind of rain. I was so disappointed. I headed back to my room, climbed back in bed, and willed the rain to stop. The rain did stop, finally, a couple of hours later. I headed out again, caught the subway, and kept my fingers crossed that the rain had kept everyone else away. Two stops later I hopped off the subway and my hopes were dashed. There were tourists, so many tourists, and they were milling. It looked like getting that shot wasn’t in the cards for me.
The Fushimi-Inari Shrine
My first attempt at that shot, close but no cigar. A nice long stretch of gates without any people but on the right hand side there were wooden stakes wrapped in red and white plastic like candy canes. Candy canes do not equal magic either, unless it’s Christmas maybe, but this was July and candy cane stakes weren’t going to cut it.
After I’d made my way through the first few torii the people started to thin out. I continued to walk up the hill and eventually found myself alone. On both sides of the path were the tallest and thickest bamboo stalks that I’d ever seen. It was here that I started to feel the magic.
The main shrine is at the bottom of hill near the train station but there are several smaller shrines dotting the hillside.
I made it as far as a little shrine on a lake. Smaller torii covered every rock surface and the messenger foxes seemed to watch each step that I took. I’d most definitely found the mystery.
After a couple of hours of exploring and just trying to take it all in it was time for me to head back to the hotel to meet up with my family. On my way back towards the train station I snapped this picture. It’s almost that shot, except for the metal pole that is.
This tunnel is just too short to be that shot.
Then finally, that shot, maybe… I hope it calls to you, that you can feel yourself being drawn in. That you find yourself wanting to know what’s around the bend.
If it isn’t that shot then you must believe me when I say that if you are in Kyoto I sincerely hope you will make your way to the Fushimi-Inari Shrine. That you too will experience the magic and mystery as you take a walk through the torii.
Directions: Make your way to the Fushimi-Inari Station and follow the crowds.