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Japan Pt.1: Is Fushimi Inari Just A Big Tourist Trap?

Fushimi Inari, if you don’t recognise the name, you might recall seeing a picture of endless red gates prolonging into the mountain somewhere, and most like have wowwwed or awwwwed at it. It is statistically proved to be the most visited attraction of Japan for the past 5 years. And it indeed is on the itinerary of every tourist visiting Kyoto

This time is my second time visiting the Fushimi Inari(read about my first visit here). And of course, like the first time, I was joined by no less than a few hundreds of visitors at the shrine, hoping to get a glance, or if lucky, a photo of the famous, undeniably picturesque red gates.

If somehow Kyoto happens to be in your travel plan this, or the coming couple of years, I’ve got a few tips from my own experience, about visiting(or not) the Fushimi Inari.

1. Is it worth a visit?

It totally depends on what you want to get out of it. For all the pictures you might have seen on all the travel magazines of Pinterest: that red serpentine going up the mountain, mysterious yet serene…well, chances are, you’ll not be able to see quite the same when you visit. Like I’ve said, it is the most visited attraction in Japan in the recent years. Unless you go there really early in the morning to beat crowd(like around 6pm?), you’ll for sure be joining the biggest crowd, each and everyone trying to get a good shot of the famous scene, just as you. If the only goal for your visit is to get a good photo, then I suggest you to make some extra effort and get up before sunrise; or, just give it up and visit the hundreds other equally tranquil and beautiful temples in Kyoto.

Having said that, it is still possible to enjoy yourself visiting the Fushimi Inari. The mountain behind the shrine actually goes on quite a bit. Many visitors, due to their tight schedules, can only spare no more than half an hour/1 hour on the visit. But if you can afford to spend longer, the hike to the top of the mountain, with more gates going all the way up, and an almost surreal, tree-house like pit stop tea house halfway, is both physically and mentally rewarding. Not to mention, that way you’ll find yourself surrounded by very few others. And the original feeling you got from seeing the photos will actually come back to you after passing the initial crowds.

2. What’s the best time to go, and how long should you spend on it?

 

Following from the first point, if you do decide to pay a visit, either get up real early and be there before everyone, or you’d better be prepared to lower your expectation. If you have time to spare, try to allocate more time on Fushimi Inari, and make it into a half-day hiking trip. Although the urge to tick off as many “must-see” attractions as possible is strong. I can assure you that going deep into, and really understand one place is much more rewarding, and later on more memorable than having a hundred pictures of places you don’t even remember going to.

3. What else is there, other than the chance to take photos of the red gates(and most probably with a dozen fellow visitors in the picture)?

Fushimi Inari is located just a little out from the main city bits of Kyoto. You can either take a train, or with a taxi it won’t cost you much at all too. There are plenty of cafes and eateries, souvenir shops developed around the shrine. But just within the shrine itself, there’s a nice tea room serving light meals and local favourites too. The location is dreamy, hidden half way up the mountain, among the forest. You’ll feel like you’ve been topped up with oxygen once you’ve sat down. I highly recommend a visit. Or, if you decide not to climb up all the way there, the street food stalls just by the entrance of the shrine are decent enough for a quick bite too. Just be adventurous and try something new, like it or not, it’ll definitely add to your experience of visiting the Fushimi Inari(although you’ll most likely fall in love straight away).