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Fushimi Inari Shrine

Listed under Temples in Kyoto, Japan.

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I took a lot of photos in Japan, but these are the ones I look at most. It's just such a feat that these tori gates have been built here, in these eiry corridors all the way up the mountain. As much as anything else it's a surprise. When you approach the tori tunnel from the main temple at the bottom of the hill you can only see a few hundred metres worth of vermilion – people gather here taking photos, and I did the same – not realising that these gates are just the sentinels or the forward party for the thousands that follow. And it doesn't get old. Walking up the hill I didn't stop being impressed by the rows on rows of gates. In some places, like at the beginning and along flatter areas, the gates are put up right beside each other in almost closed corridors which you can only see fingers of green through, but in some places they're set almost a metre apart from each other, looking all the more striking for being able to see the forest though them - because there is really nothing else up here. The whole hill is a thank you to the gods of prosperity – that's what these gates are, thank yous to the Inari gods who look after rice, sake and now business. Each gate has a message carved into it, usually a thank you, some from individuals, some from companies. Some of the other gates are hopeful prayers to prosperity.

You really should take the time to walk up the hill – it was one of the highlights of my trip to Japan. There are stairs but it's steep in parts, and it's about four kilometres walk, a lot of it on a sharp incline, but think about people carrying the gates up and maintaining them and you'll get some perspective about walking with your water bottle and camera. The view from the top is charming and you pass little cafes on the way, but all that is nothing compared to the rows on rows of gates which I feel useless to describe, suffice to say that it's like nothing else.

Statues of foxes guard the ways, many of them wearing red bibs or with keys in their mouths, they are the keepers of the granary, and the hill was littered with cat litters – maybe the equivalent of the stone foxes?

The atmosphere is still, quiet and very peaceful, despite, or possibly even aided but the exertion of climbing the hill, and all metaphor and pretty strings of words aside this was an entirely magical experience. I really felt like I was seeing something I had never seen before, which was totally true.

Written by  Kat Mackintosh.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Vermilion gates in the Japanese tori style mark the entrance to this shrine which is built on the bottom of a hill. Stone foxes stand guard on either side of the large formal gates and of the main shrine, which is decorated grandly in bright red – which makes sense when you remember that this shrine is to the Inari kami, the gods who look after rice, sake and business. Built in the eighth century, this is Japan’s main Inari shrine, there are some 30,000 others, and so the best place to pray for and give thanks for good fortune in business – which can be done by donating another tori gate to the thousands which are lined up along a walkway heading up Inarisan, the hill behind the main shrine.

You can get to the shrine from Inari Station on the Nara Line or from Kyoto’s Keihan line where you need to get off at Fushimi-Inari Station.

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