The enchanting Torii Gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha

The first time I visited Fushimi Inari-taisha was way back in January of 2016. Since then I have been to the heritage site a couple of times but I never came around to writing about it.

The Inari shrine is one of the most popular shrines in Japan. The classical vermillion Torii (gate) with a pair of stone fox images guarding such shrines can be found everywhere in the country. The most striking feature of Inari worship (Inari shinkõ) is the high degree of diversification and even personalization of this kami. Devotees do not simply worship “Inari,” but a separate form of Inari with its own name.

Fushimi Inari-taisha (伏見稲荷大社) is the head shrine of the Kami Inari, located in Fushimi-ku area of Kyoto. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain, also named Inari, which is about 230 meters in height. Most of the shrine’s prominent structures are located right at the base of the mountain. However, for the adventurous types, there are numerous trails that lead right up to the summit of the Inari mountain, where you can find some very old and interesting shrines.

Whichever trail you choose, it is about 3 km to the top. Along the way, you will witness hundreds of smaller shrines, some freshly painted and some, in a somewhat debilitated state. The most intriguing part of the hike, however, are the thousands of vermilion-colored gates called Torii.

Vermilion is said to be a color that repels magical powers and is the reason it is often used in shrines, temples and even palaces in Japan.

Most of you, I assume, would be arriving to Fushimi Inari-taisha from Kyoto via the JR train line unless you are using your personal vehicle. As soon as you get off the train at the Inari Station, you cannot miss the huge Torii gate that leads to the main shrine grounds. The shrine’s close proximity to the bustling city of Kyoto makes it very easy to reach but that also means massive crowds, especially during the weekends. My recommendation would be to reach as early as you can.

The Great Torii of Fushimi Inari Taisha

Visit to a Japanese temple or shrine starts with passing through an exorbitantly designed gate. These ubiquitous gates that form an integral part of every Shinto shrine, vary from shrine to shrine in terms of both size and effect. Made from bronze, stone or wood, they are typically constructed to form a horizontal beam – kasagi, supported by two cylindrical columns called hashira. The first massive gate you pass while visiting Fushimi Shrine is known as the Daiichi Torii. It is meant to indicate to the visitor that he or she is now passing into an even more sacred space.

If you visit the Taisha from Keihan Fushimi Inari Station via Miyuki Road, you will not be passing through this torii gate.

The wooden ones are always colored in bright vermilion. Though commonly built at a scale that comfortably fits a small group of people, they range from miniature torii placed on shrines by worshipers to mighty structures such as this one leading into Fushimi Inari-Taisha.

Beyond the Torii, you will find the entrance gate to the shrine known as the Rōmon gate or Plum Blossom Gate, guarded with statues of foxes on either side. Generally, you will find a couple of lion-dog statues beside the shrine gate, but in the case of an Inari shrine, a fox statue is placed instead of the guardian dog. How the fox began being considered as the guardian spirits of the Inari shrines and messengers of the Gods. I will deal with a little later in this very article.

The Rōmon gate was donated to the shrine by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1589

The Rōmon gate along with the entire complex burned to the ground during the Onin War (1467-1477) in the mid-15th century and everything you will see onwards from here is a reconstruction. Beside the Rōmon gate, you can find the Chozuya, to purify yourself before entering the shrine complex.

A brief history of Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto deity of rice cultivation and business success. This deity is said to grant a wide variety of prayers, from gokoku hojo (better crop output) to shobai hanjo (business prosperity), and in some regions of Japan, anzan (safe childbirth), manbyo heiyu (being completely cured of any illness), and gokaku kigan (prayers for academic success). Owing to the popularity of Inari’s division and re-enshrinement, this shrine is said to have as many as 32,000 sub-shrines (bunsha) throughout Japan.

Inari is a different kami to each believer, shaped by what each person brings of his own character and understanding of the world.

The earliest structures on Mt. Inari were built as early as 711 CE. It was originally erected as their patron deity by the influential Hatas, the descendants of the Korean prince naturalized in the 4th century. The day Inari Okami was enshrined on Mt. Inari is known as “Hatsuuma.” To commemorate Inari’s enshrinement, the Hatsu-uma Festival began to be celebrated every year. It’s been about 1300 years since and the custom is still maintained to this day. The shrine was later re-located to the base of the hill in 816 on the request of the monk Kūkai.

The shrine became the object of imperial patronage during the early Heian period (794-1185). In 965, Emperor Murakami decreed that messengers carry written accounts of important events to the guardian Kami of Japan. These heihaku were initially presented to 16 shrines, including the Inari Shrine.

Inari was first worshipped in the form of three deities (perhaps because there are three peaks on Inari Mountain in Fushimi) and later, from the time of the Kamakura period (1185–1333), as five deities. There has been great variation in the priestly assignment of kami as the three main deities of Inari Mountain; the current tradition of enshrinement, standardized during the Meiji period, is as follows:

  • Lower Shrine: Sannomine Uganomitama no õkami
  • Middle Shrine: Ninomine Sadahiko no õkami
  • Upper Shrine: Ichinomine Õmiyanome no õkami

Another custom that developed during the Heian period was the “souvenir cedar” (shirushi no sugi), a term so popular it became symbolical with the Inari shrine. The custom required one to take a small branch from one of the cedar trees on Inari’s mountain and attach it to themselves as a kind of talisman. It was especially popular to do this on the first horse day in the second month (nigatsu no hatsuuma), the traditional day of Inari’s worship.

In 1875, the name of Inari Shrine was changed to Mizuho Kosha

From 1871 through 1946, Fushimi Inari-taisha was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha (官幣大社), meaning that it stood in the first rank of government-supported shrines.

The mythical Fox of Inari

At Inari shrines, foxes (Kitsuné), are regarded as the messengers of Gods. The word Kitsuné comes from two Japanese syllables: Kitsu & ne. Kitsu is the sound of a fox yelping and ne is a word signifying an affectionate feeling. Each fox statue holds a ball-like object representing the spirit of the Gods, a scroll for messages from the Gods, a key for rice storehouses, or a rice ear in its mouth.

One legend suggests that an agricultural cycle is similar to that of a fox’s behaviors and habits, and the routes of the shrine gates are considered to be foxes’ routes. Ancient Japanese people seemed to believe that foxes had mystical powers.

According to the Nihon Ryoki, one of the oldest records, a great number of foxes lived in the national capital of Kyoto in ancient times. According to the Nihon Shoki, the Kitsuné were held in respect as an animal of good omen. In 720 a black fox was presented from the Iga province to Emperor Gemmyo (661-726 CE), the founder of the capital of Nara.

It is said that during the reign of Emperor Kammu ( 737-806 CE), foxes used to bark at night inside the Imperial Palace grounds and sometimes were even seen walking up the stairs of the palace. In the Edo Period (1603–1867), local people established the practice of erecting gates along the path of the foxes on the mountain behind the shrine to protect and fulfill their prayers.

Night Photo-walk at Fushimi Inari-Taisha

The daytime experience at Fushimi Shrine is one of noisy crowds and chattering school children. Because of its close vicinity to Kyoto, the Fushimi shrine is always crowded with the daily wide-eyed tourists from different parts of the world who generally forget to respect the heritage place in their excitement. So this year when I decided to visit the shrine once again, I planned it specifically at night, when it truly becomes magical. The number of tourists also decreases significantly at this time and I can promise you that it will be a much better experience if you choose to do the same.

As you walk out of the JR train station, you will immediately notice a fox illuminated by a beam of light near the station gate, carrying a rice stock in its mouth.

Heritage structures at Fushimi Inari Taisha

The first Torii leads you to another. It is a beautiful sight sans the crowd.

The two-storied Rōmon gate is the building that makes up the main entrance of Fushimi Inari Taisha and has been designated an important cultural property. It was not part of the earliest structures of the Inari shrine, but there is evidence that it already existed around 1500 CE.

The two-storied gate, built with a hip-and-gable roof covered with cypress bark thatching, is believed to have been built during the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the time from the Warring States period to the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Hideyoshi prayed for his mother Oomandokoro’s recovery from illness, and the gate was built in gratitude for her recuperation.

On both sides of the Rōmon gate are statues of gods called “zuijin” and they act as bodyguards for Inari Okami. Of all the Rōmon gates at shrines located in Kyoto, this is considered to be the oldest and the largest.


Just beyond the two-storied Rōmon gate, will find the Gehaiden, illuminated brilliantly by the lanterns inside. This brightly lit structure is used for various dance performances during festivals. When I visited the shrine in 2018, I was lucky to experience a dance inside the hall. The hall was then surrounded by hundreds of people and absolutely not like how it is presented below.

The Gehaiden is built with a hip-and-gable roof covered in cypress bark thatch. It is also a designated important cultural property. The iron lanterns hanging from the eaves (edge of a roof) depict the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Azumamaro Shrine

While facing the Gehaiden, on your right you will find a small narrow path that leads to the Higashimaru Shrine enshrining Kada no Azumamaro. On its left wall, you will find hundreds of omikuji and wooden ema plates left behind by visitors.

Azumamaro was active in the mid-Tokugawa period as a priest of the Fushimi Inari Shrine and wrote works including “On Opening Schools and Annotations” to Nihon Shoki. In the modern period, he came to be extolled as one of the four great men of kokugaku or the “Learning of the Imperial Land.”

Prior to Azumamaro, there was Ooyama Tameoki, a disciple of Suika Shinto of Yamazaki Ansai, who also served as the priest of the Fushimi Inari Shrine and studied Shinto as the Learning of the Imperial Land. Kada Azumamaro was from the Hakuro family and Ooyama Tameoki was from the Hata family, these two came from two competing priest families. Yet, they both tried to master the Learning of the Imperial Land through the interpretation of Kojiki and Nihon Shoki.


Just behind the Gehaiden, lies the main shrine referred to as Naihaiden. It is very close to the Gehaiden at the base of the mountain. A small flight of steps leads you to into the red building. Here you can pay your respects by giving a coin offering, ringing the bells, and praying by bowing twice, clapping twice, praying silently, and then bowing once again. The Naihaiden was also burned down during the Onin War, and the existing building is said to have been rebuilt in 1499.

The main shrine or Honden lies just behind the Naihaiden. It is the holy building where Inari Okami resides. It is also where festivals and prayer rituals are held. The main shrine located within the Naihaiden was built in 1499 in the nagare-zukuri style with its streamlined roof. The 500-year-old building is painted vermilion and is an important cultural property.

Five kami, or gods, are worshipped: Ukanomitamano Okami, Satahikono Okami, Omiyanomeno Okami, Tanakano Okami, and Shino Okami. Collectively, these kami are referred to as Inari Okami. The gables in the entrance are Karaha-fu, a type of cusped gable, and each beam has beautiful Chinese firebirds and flowers carved into it.

Juyosho or Shrine Management Office

This is where you can buy souvenirs like ema plates, amulets, talismans, and the ever-popular omikuji. Applications for prayers, kagura performances, and offerings are also accepted here. The Ema plaques that they sell here are unique. They are called “gankake torii” which are shaped like torii gates. Usually, during the daytime, there is a long queue in front of the counter with a good number of young girls trying their luck at omikuji.

At the inner shrine and at the Gozendani, ema are shaped like white fox faces and called Gankake Myobu Ema. Ema (wooden tablets for writing wishes on) are very popular in shrines and temples around Japan. People write their wishes and leave the tablets hanging up at the shrine where the kami (Shinto deities) can receive them. Usually, ema have a more rectangular shape, but the special ema at Fushimi Inari Taisha is in the shape of a fox. The ema can be purchased at the shrine for ¥500. After purchasing the ema, write your wish on the back, and on the front draw the face of a fox. It is quite similar to Kasuga Taisha, where instead of a fox, you draw the face of a deer. It is very exciting to see all the ema lined up with the different faces that the visitors have left behind.


The Gonden is used as a temporary home for the kami when the main shrine or other buildings are being repaired. It is a lot smaller than the size of the main shrine, and it is made in the Gokensha Nagarezukuri style, an asymmetrical gabled roof style with six pillars. It too is a designated important cultural property. The current building is a reconstruction built in 1645. To the left of the Gonden hall, you will find a series of steps that go up the mountain. Climbing this stone staircase marks the beginning of “Inariyama Mikamiseki worship.”


This is the Kami-Massha shrine. The big torii to its left goes towards the Okumiya shrine from where the series of torii gates start.

Okumiya Shrine

At the top of the wide stone steps, you will find the Okumiya shrine dedicated to the same Inari Okami as the main shrine. It used to be called the Kamigoten and is made in a different architectural style than the other shrines in the precinct. It also is a designated important cultural property.

To the left of the Okumiya shrine, somewhat hidden by the trees you can find the first of the series of giant torii gates leading through Senbon Torii to the Okusha Shrine.

Continue along the large torii pathway called Myobu Sando and the path will split into two routes with torii gates that stretch tunnel-like. When going to Okunoin from the entrance, pass on the left side. On the other hand, when going down from Okunoin, pass on the right side. That is, we should always keep to the left in the direction we are going.

Senbon Torii

As I mentioned before, the highlight of the Fushimi shrine are the rows of torii gates, known as Senbon Torii. Those who have heard about the Fushimi Inari Shrine, immediately think of the Senbon Torii, or the thousands of red torii gates leading pilgrims up the sacred mountain. The word “Senbon,” literally meaning a thousand is just used here to represent many many more, closer to 10,000. They are so close to each other, that they form an almost perfect tunnel that completely conceals the outside world. Some of the old Japanese literature describes Senbon torii as a tunnel, similar to a birth canal from which a true believer is reborn onto the sacred space on the Kami’s mountain.

Even though I have been here multiple times, I have never thought about counting these torii gates. It is said that there are about 10,000 torii gates lining this road up the mountain to the shrine at the top. This sight of the torii, all lined up is magnificent and, perhaps one of the most iconic views of Japan.

Currently, about 10,000 torii gates stand side by side along the entire approach to the mountain.

After passing through the “Senbon Torii”, you will arrive at Okusha, commonly known as “Oku-no-in”. Legend has it that if make a wish in front of the stone lantern here and lift the empty ring (round-headed stone) of the lantern. It is said that if the weight you feel when you lift it is lighter than expected, your wish will come true, and if it is heavy, it will not come true. From here we turn left and head up into the mountain.

The gateways here are of a brilliant vermillion and black and are engraved with inscriptions from the donors. The custom of donating a torii began in the Edo period (1603-1868.) At times tightly packed and at times irregularly spaced and several yards apart, the torii lead visitors on the 3 km hike up, along the steep hillside, past an assortment of smaller shrines. Strolling up one of the torii tunnels, you will feel lost in a magical red world. It is an almost unreal sensation that washes over you as you venture yet further into the belly of the mountain through this surreal passage.

Some 30 thousand torii are said to have been donated by various people seeking Inari’s blessing on their businesses over the years. Merchants from all over Japan pay large sums of money to get a torii installed dedicated to them, at the shrine. As you move into the next set of torii gates, it does not feel like a tunnel anymore as the gates begin to get separated little by little. The gates here are a little more orangish.

The gates space out more as we head towards the summit. As the torii spread out, the outside light begins to pour into the tunnel and my attention was drawn to the forest that I had entered almost without noticing. The gates here are also not illuminated from the inside so you only have the lights from the street lamps to move around in the dark. The emerging space in alliance with the sequence of columns and beams creates a crisscross of patterns of light and dark.

The path continues upward through the dense cedar forest passing various clusters perched on the hillside until you reach the end of the torii gates.

This area is generally quieter with only the dedicated tourists making it up this far. Being late at night it was almost deserted apart from a couple of young Japanese visitors. A fleet of steep stairs will take you up to a four-point crossroad. The path to your left goes up the hill. On your right, you will find a very narrow lane called the Tamahimesha.


This is the Tamahimesha area where you can find many shrines dedicated to Inari. There is a place called Yotsuji in the middle of Mt. Inari. This is a perfect place to rest and you can enjoy the view of Kyoto. The view at sunset is especially beautiful!

Lit candles at a Kanmidokoro Takeya.

This was as far as we went. We didn’t go beyond this point and started our descent back to the base of the hill. During daytime you can hike further to the top of the mountain. While descending we took a different route.

As we reached the base, the Gehaiden was looking absolutely stunning in the night.

It was pretty late at night by the time we started to leave. To my surprise, I could still see some people making their way into the shrine. Yes, the shrine is open 24 hours with both the approach to the shrine and, the Honden itself, illuminated all night. So you can visit anytime you want.

Contrary to general assumption, the Inari Shrine does not own the entire mountain and a number of religious establishments on the mountain are totally independent from the Fushimi Shrine. It is impossible to tell though, which belongs to the shrine. Most guides are also not aware of this division between shrines and private areas.

The pilgrimage tradition at Fushimi’s Inari Mountain that started in the Heian period is still thriving. There’s something to be said about Japan’s almost seamless blend of new and traditional. Never have I seen such a balance of modernism from such an industrious country, all of their technological advances, infrastructure, media, and corporate lives don’t depreciate their respect for tradition and history.

Thanks for reading! Please leave your comments or questions using the comment form below. I am now going to double-check my shopping list before I disembark for India in a couple of days’ time. If you like my stories you can also connect with me on Instagram.

Admission Timings

Open 24/7

Admission Fees



711 CE

Annual events at Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fox-feeding (Kitsune-segyo)
A custom prevailing in Osaka and vicinity. Believers visit their local Inari shrine carrying a small paper lantern shouting “O-segyo! O-segyo!” a call to the fox that it is feeding time. On their way home, they leave the fox’s favorite food of azuki-meshi, fice boiled with red beans and fried bean curds on the banks or any other place where foxes are expected to go.

Rice Planting Festival in Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
Rice has been very important for Japanese people for centuries, and farmers have always worked hard together to cultivate rice. At Fushimi Inari-taisha, you can get a brief glimpse of this ancient Japanese culture. The Shinto rituals for prosperity and good harvests include seeding, planting, and harvest festivals are held respectively on April 12th, June 10th, and October 25th.

Warrior dolls of Aomori Nebuta Museum

Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is one of the largest Japanese festivals in the Tōhoku region. It is held every year at the beginning of August. Unfortunately I missed it by a whisker. However there is still a ray of hope for people like us if you visit Aomori during a different period of time, you can still enjoy a part of its beauty at the Wa Rasse Nebuta Museum.

The Wa Rasse Nebuta Museum in Aomori showcases some of the most spectacular Nebuta Floats from Aomori’s annual Nebuta Matsuri. The museum is a great place to learn about the world-famous festival and everything Nebuta. It walks the visitors through the history of Nebuta and it’s importance to Aomori City.

I took the early morning 6 am Komachi Shinkansen from Akita to Morioka and from there switched to the Hayabusa Shinkansen to Aomori. It took me about 3 hours for the full ride and I reached Aomori at 9.30 am. The museum is located at a short walk from the JR Aomori Station and opens at 8:30 am in the morning.

I bought my ticket at the admission booth for ‎¥600. The ground floor does not contain many exhibits and the space is taken up by a quaint restaurant and a few souvenir shops. Here, one can enjoy views of Mutsu Bay as they feast upon delicious seafood dishes prepared at Restaurant Den.

Up on the first floor I went past a red hallway, the walls adorned with photos and images from the Nebuta Matsuri’s 400 year history.

Beyond the hallways I found myself in a large, dimly lit hall where the colorful, brightly illuminated award-winning parade floats from this year’s festival were on display in all their splendor. These are replaced each year with new winners from that year. I walked around each of the floats admiring the craftsmanship that went into their construction.

A large screen on the wall displayed scenes from the just finished festival. In one of the corners of the hall, smaller components of the floats in wire frames were displayed on stands that visitors could touch and feel.

History of Nebuta Festival in Aomori

Nebuta Floats are generally created based on scenes from Kabuki, Japanese history and mythology or some popular current affairs. The Aomori Nebuta Festival is one of Japan’s most colorful festivals but it has had a rather chequered history. The festival began in the 1600’s during the Edo period and has been banned at various times in yesteryear mainly due to the fire hazard it represented during those times when candles were used to light the paper floats. Nowadays these floats make use of electric bulbs for illumination.

The floats themselves are believed to be the result of an amalgamation of several key elements in the Nara Period (710-794): ancient Tsugaru traditions, dolls, insect-repelling torches, the sending off of ancestral spirits, and the aforementioned Tanabata Matsuri. All of these customs were brought together in the form of lanterns, at a time when the use of paper, bamboo, and candles was becoming increasingly common in society. The lanterns would eventually come to depict human figures – the original Nebuta Matsuri floats.

The word Nebuta finds its roots in the Tanabata Matsuri. The lanterns that appeared during the festival processions were known by this name, and on the actual night of Tanabata itself (July 7), they were floated down rivers or the sea, serving as both a cleansing ritual and a prayer for good health. This custom was called nebuta-nagashi, and can be seen today in the form of Aomori Nebuta maritime displays.

Many contemporary Nebuta floats depict kabuki actors – a custom which most likely began in the Bunka Period (1804-1818), when folk art was at its peak. In the past, the nebuta were quite smaller and were created in every alley. In those times the festival was more of a personal enjoyment. A festive atmosphere filled the entire town, from one corner to the next. Nebuta floats grew even larger as Japan entered the Meiji Period (1868-1912). One particular Nebuta from Hamamachi in 1871 is said to have been about 20 meters tall (the reasons for which are unknown) and carried by a hundred people. During recent years however, both the schedule and course are set and the main purpose is to have a spectacular show, showcasing the floats to festival goers.

The incredible color, intricacy and the sheer size of the floats is mind-blowing. The Nebuta floats reminded my of the similar spirit during the celebration of goddess Durga in my hometown of Kolkata.

While the Nebuta Festival in Aomori is the biggest in the area, there are many other Nebuta festivals around. So when visiting Aomori during festival time, make sure to check out the festivals in the small towns, too. Every town has its own way of building these floats. The floats in Aomori are wide, the ones in Hirosaki they are not so wide, but higher. There are some floats that also have movable parts.

As I moved on towards the exit, there is a wall adorned with many Nebuta faces, all looking down on me with extreme fierceness.

It was time for me to head out towards my next stop at Yamadera Temple. Nebuta Festival is held every year in early August, but for those who can’t make it to the festival itself, Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse offers a glimpse into the experience all year-round. The museum is a fantastic place to see the floats live and up close without having to jostle for a place in the festival streets. On weekends and holidays, there are occasional performances by “Haneto” dancers who demonstrate the unique Nebuta Matsuri dance accompanied by live music played on Taiko drums and flutes. If you are in Aomori, I highly recommend a visit to the Wa Rasse Nebuta Museum.

The illuminated Kenrokuen Garden

This weekend Mani & I head off to the gasshō-zukuri villages of Gokayama. On the way we planned to stop at the lovely Kenroku-en garden, located in Kanazawa, Ishikawa. The Kenroku-en garden is regarded as one of Japans three most beautiful gardens, along with Kairaku-en in the city of Mito and Koraku-en in the city of Okayama.

Ride to Kanazawa

After two solo trips to Shirahama and Nachi, I was bubbling with confidence. I was ready with the train information as we reached Osaka from Nara. Mani had taught me well. We took the Thunderbird train from Kyoto. This route does not run any Shinkansen trains. The Thunderbird limited express trains are the fastest way to Kanazawa from Osaka, travelling over the Tokaido Main Line and then moving on to Kosei Line and eventually up the Hokuriku Line.

Along the way we passed the lovely Lake Biwa. It was a grey day and the grayness made even Lake Biwa look depressed. As the train entered the Fukui area, we saw a bit of snow along the tracks.

We reached the Kanazawa Station at around 1 pm. The station is huge with a sprawling shopping center. Outside the gates there is a huge dome. Towards the front of the metal dome there is a wooden gate named “Tsuzumi-mon,” in the shape of a traditional Japanese instrument called Tsuzumi (hand drums).

The bus stand is just beside the Tsuzumi-mon gate. We took the next available bus to the Kenrokuen Garden. The bus dropped us off near one of the gates to the Park. The one way ride from Kanazawa Station takes about 20 minutes and costs ¥200 per head on the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus. The bus honored my JR Pass and I didn’t require a ticket.

It was lunchtime, so we decided to take lunch and then visit the garden. The wide road was lined with shops on both sides. A few had snow boots on display, though it didn’t feel like it had snowed recently. I had been thinking of getting one for myself for the tour of Hokkaido, but didn’t find any cool ones. At the corner of the road we found a Subway restaurant. We had a light meal of fries and sandwiches and then began our walk towards the garden.

Kenrokuen Garden with an area of 25 acres, is located on a hill in the central part of the city of Kanazawa, right next to Kanazawa Castle. We entered the park via the Gyokusen Inmaru gate. It leads up to the Gyokusen Inmaru Garden.

Gyokusen Inmaru Garden

The garden was abandoned in the Meiji Era (1868–1912) and was lost to the ravages of time. Not too long ago in 2013, it was reconstructed with the help of a five-year excavation survey that began in 2008. Various old drawings with literary descriptions helped in bringing back the garden as it was during feudal times. In order to preserve the remains of the original garden, new soil was laid over the entire area of the old garden and the new garden was constructed over this layer. The reconstruction was finally completed in March 2015 and public were able to view this lovely work of art that used to be a favorite relaxing place of past feudal lords.

At the other end of the garden, a fleet of stone stairs took us to the Castle grounds. The sprawling snow-white Kanazawa Castle is spread across a huge area.

The castle was originally founded in 1580 and has been razed to the ground in multiple fires. Today the oldest existing structure on the castle grounds is the Ishikawa Gate from 1788.

The castle was first founded by Sakuma Morimasa, who laid the foundation of the moats and the castle town. After the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583, Maeda Toshiie took control and initiated the building of the beautiful castle. Kanazawa’s growth is largely dedicated to the growing power of Maeda Toshiie from 1580 to 1700. It was but a small town of only 5000 people before Maeda and his clan’s continuous efforts put the city on the trade map.

The Maeda clan ruled over the Kaga region from Kanazawa for 14 generations until the coming of the Meiji Restoration. Near the castle, there is another small pond. We sat there for a bit. The best thing I love about being in Japan is there is so much peace and tranquility.

After some time we moved on towards the garden. It was late afternoon by the time we reached the entrance to the garden.

On the road beside the garden there are various shops selling souvenirs and daily use items. Some eateries were exhibiting a special gold dust flavored ice creams. They were quite expensive at ¥800 a piece. We walked along the street, waiting for the evening to set in, since that is when the garden would be illuminated.

We went inside the garden at around 4 pm. There’s an entrance fee of ¥310 per head. The garden is on an elevated hill and one can see the sprawling city of Kanazawa from up here.

The Kenroku-en garden was first established in the 17th century by the feudal lords of Kaga as their private garden. The garden belonged to the Maeda family, who reigned over Ishikawa and Toyama areas during feudal times. It was only after 1874 that the garden was opened to the public.

Kasumiga-ike Pond

Right after we entered the garden, we found ourselves in front of the Kasumiga-ike Pond. It is the biggest pond in the garden and contains many beautiful elements arranged around it such as the Uchihashi-tei tea house, Kotoji lantern, Niji-bashi bridge and the huge Karasaki pine tree.

Kotoji lantern

The stone lantern beside the pond is designed in the image of the Japanese koto (harp). The lantern symbolizes the Kenrokuen Garden and can be found pictured on most tourism pamphlets for Kanazawa. I found the scene of this lantern with the surrounding trees most impressive.

Uchihashi-tei Tea House

On the opposite side of the pond one can find the Uchihashi-tei. It is one of the four tea houses in Kenrokuen. The house is supported by the stone legs but looks as if it is floating on the Kasumiga-ike Pond.

There was still time for the lights to come on so we wandered into the deeper areas of the garden.

Plum Grove Garden

We came across a plum grove where some trees were just beginning to flower. Beside the plum grove one can find the Funanoochin Arbor – a boat-shaped resting area. Sitting here, tourists can enjoy the beauty of plum and cherry blossoms in spring. It must be a fantastic experience sitting in the arbor and reading a book, surrounded by all those plum blooms.

The plum grove was landscaped in 1968, as part of a project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Meiji period. Saplings for the plum grove were gathered from various places across Japan. There are now about 200 trees of different varieties in the grove.

In winter, visitors are treated to the glorious view of snow-covered landscape with yukitsuri holding the pine branches together in beautiful geometric patterns. Yukitsuri is a method of protecting the branches of the pine trees in the garden with ropes attached in a conical array to the trees in order to prevent the branches from breaking. It snows heavily in winter in this region, and the yuki-tsuri keeps the branches of trees from breaking under the weight of snow. Unfortunately there wasn’t any snow around.

Dusk was drawing nearer, when it began to snow. This would be surprising to many, but it was my first experience of a snowfall. The tiny flakes were floating in the light wind, and as I walked, some of them caressed my face gently. It feels so different from the depressing rainfall. Unfortunately within a few minutes, it had started to rain pretty heavily. It was impractical to stay on any longer at the garden, so we headed back to the station.

Update: The Kenroku-en Garden Illumination

I went back during the week to capture the illuminated garden. The kenroku-en illuminations are too good to miss. It was evening by the time I reached the garden. The main gate was closed and visitors were directed towards another gate on the side. A queue had formed very quickly. Most around me appeared to be seasoned photographers, ready with their tripods and flashes. We were allowed entry into the garden at 5 pm. Being a weekday, they had waived off the entry fee for the day.

By 5.30 pm the lights had started to come on. I too had brought along my tripod. I set it up and took some shots near the Kasumiga-ike Pond.

After taking some shots, I walked towards the opposite side of the Kasumiga-ike Pond. From there I shot the below photo of the Pine trees with their reflection falling in the pond.

On the left, beside me the Uchihashi-tei Tea House appeared to be a boathouse in an enchanted forest.

I went around a full circle back to the pine trees. A large group of people had gathered there by then. One by one they would take selfies and move out in a very orderly fashion. I waited for a few minutes and found a moment to capture the glowing pine trees.

Back to the story

After the rain stopped us from enjoying a romantic evening at the Kenroku-en garden we went back to the station. We still had some time for the train to Toyama, so we walked into the shopping complex. The basement is huge and used for holding events and such.

The name Kenroku-en means ‘Six Attributes Garden’. A garden that possesses these six attributes of “spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, water-courses and panoramas” is believed to be the perfect garden. Kenroku-en has them all! I had a lovely time at the garden and would highly recommend going there during winter illuminations.

Thank you for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as I walk in knee-deep snow at Ainokura village.

Claim to fame

Kenroku-en is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan.

When was the Kenroku-en built?

Kenroku-en was built in the Edo period. It used to be the outer garden of the Kanazawa castle.

Who built Kenroku-en?

Kenroku-en garden was created by the Maeda family over three centuries beginning in 1676 CE with a landscape garden called Renchitei. This garden was destroyed by fire in 1759, but was restored in 1774, and in 1822 the garden acquired its current name Kenroku-en.

What is the admission fees to enter Kenroku-en?

320 yen (free during early admission hours)

What are the visiting hours for Kenroku-en?

Regular Hours:
7:00 to 18:00 (March to October 15)
8:00 to 17:00 (October 16 to February)

Early Admission Hours:
From 5:00 (April to August from 4:00, November to February from 6:00)
*Early admission visitors must exit the garden before the start of regular hours

Lights of NaraRurie

Nara Rurie, a winter illumination festival is celebrated in early spring in Nara. The Park is covered in a beautiful world of azure blue, believed to usher happiness into everyone’s lives. The deep blue Rurie, has been held sacred as a supreme color by the Japanese people since being introduced via the Silk Road. This year Nara Rurie marks its 5th anniversary.

Once I started to discover Nara, the first thing that impressed me about this city is its amazing historical highlights. Nara is an ancient city with thousands of historic treasures. It is most noted for the many ancient Japanese Buddhist buildings and artifacts in and around the city, including the Seven Great Temples.

Nara was established as Japan’s capital in 710 CE by Empress Gemmei, and remained so for another 80 years. But for a small duration of 5 years(740-745), when the capital was moved elsewhere, it emerged as the fountainhead of Japanese culture. During this period Nara enjoyed great prosperity. The city was heavily influenced by the Chinese, so much that it was remodeled after the Chinese city of Chang’an. During the time of Emperor Shomu, who very much patronized the Chinese, the Japanese upper classes adopted Chinese written system and the religion of Buddhism. The historic monuments of ancient Nara that still stand, bear witness to the evolution of Japanese architecture and vividly illustrates the cultural evolution during that time. The city’s Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and the excavated remains of the great Imperial Palace provide a vivid picture into the lives of the Japanese in the 8th century.

During the first couple of weeks of February, these monuments are being showcased with light projections and laser shows culminating with the Izumi Iwaki festival, celebrating the 136th anniversary of Nara Park. The winter evenings are illuminated with colorful lights at the symbolic structures of Nara Park — including Nara National Museum, Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, Kofukuji Temple and Todaiji Temple.

The walk to Nara Park is not more than 15 minutes from where I stay. To escape the crowds we left home late at around 8 p.m. Note, the lights stay on only till 9 p.m. We entered the park from behind the Todaiji. Todaiji wasn’t open but the Kagamiike Pond in front was illuminated with a laser show. Inside the temple, the organizers had opened the window of the hall so Daibutsu’s face could be seen from the gate. The window stays closed for the better part of the year. So if you want to witness the face of Todaiji’s Buddha from outside, this would be a nice time. We stayed there for a few minutes enjoying the cool laser show over the pond.

We then head off towards the Nara Forum, where the main illumination takes place. The park was lit up with illuminated gates along the path. Stalls offering Japanese delicacies are set up along the entrance path.

The entry to the Nara Rurie cost us ¥500 each.

The garden inside was immersed in a carpet of glowing azure. Rurie or Lapis lazuli, a deep blue semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity by the Japanese for its intense color.

We walked into the astonishing meadow of blue lights. At some places along the Tanabata Road, some life-sized illuminated figures of the famous Deer of Nara Park are also placed.

It was really an immersing experience of lights at the Park. The walk around the azure lights is very romantic and great for a pre-valentines date.

One can get the latest information about the upcoming schedules of the Nara Rurie festival from here:

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, with a length of almost four kilometers, is the world’s longest suspension bridge. Opened in 1998, it spans the Akashi Strait (Akashi Kaikyo) between Kobe and Awaji Island and is part of the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway.

Prior to the bridge’s construction, the strait was considered one of the world’s most dangerous waterways. For instance, in 1955 a severe storm caused two ferries to sink resulting in the deaths of 168 people.

How to get to Akashi Kaikyo

If you are coming from Osaka, you have to get down at the Maiko Station, on the Sanyo Line. Shinkansen trains don’t stop here, you have to use a local train. I had purchased a Kansai Wide Pass. If you want to stop at various stations just to take photos this pass makes it very cheap to travel around the Kansai region.

Once you come out of the Maiko station, you will have to cross the road and walk past the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center on the left. A few meters away a small lane goes right to the edge of the Akashi Strait.

It took 180,000 tonnes of steel to complete the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

It is a substantial 6-lane road bridge that connects Kobe on the main island of Honshu with Iwyaya on the smaller Japanese island of Awaji. This, in turn, is linked to the island of Shikoku via the Ōnaruto Bridge over the Naruto Strait.

The bridge was originally planned by the Japanese National Railways (now JR) in the mid-1950’s, as part of a rail link between the islands of Honshu and Shikoku. In 1975, after an exhaustive study, the Japanese government elected to build JR’s bridge, the Seto Bridge, over a much shorter span closer to Okayama. If you have been to the island of Shikoku by rail, you must have already used this route.

About 300,000 kilometers of cabling was used in the bridge’s construction

The length of the bridge alone presented a tremendous challenge to the engineers, but that wasn’t the only issue they had to face in designing this monumental structure. For one, the bridge also had to be tall enough to let boat traffic in the strait pass unimpeded.

As the bridge stands in a seismically unstable part of the world, engineers also needed to ensure its design would stand the test of time. To this end, the bridge includes a complex system of counterweights, pendulums, and steel-truss girders that allow the bridge to withstand wind speeds of up to 290 km/h. The foundation depth of the bridge is equivalent to that of a 20-storey apartment. Yet despite its inherent strength, the bridge is also able to expand and contract several times a day.

The rocky bank is a beautiful spot to take a shot of the lovely bridge. I had reached the spot at around 5 pm. The bridge is exactly 3,911 meters long, has three spans supported by two main supporting towers that stand 297 meters apiece and a series of anchoring cables. This makes Akashi Kaikyo Bridge also one of the world’s tallest.

Light was pretty bright. At first I took some shots with a 10-stop ND filter. They came out okay. I wasn’t too excited to see the results since the skies had no drama.

The bridge is used by around 25,000 cars everyday

How I took captured Night View of Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

After that I walked further west along the coast but couldn’t find a better spot, so I walked back to the earlier spot and waited for the lights to come on and then took this shot. I used the 10-24mm nikkor at 24mm on my Nikon D7100. I lowered the aperture to F16 to slow down the shutter speed to get the water to look smooth.

The Akashi–Kaikyo bridge has a total of 1,737 illumination lights!

The Akashi–Kaikyo bridge has a total of 1,737 illumination lights: 1,084 for the main cables, 116 for the main towers, 405 for the girders and 132 for the anchorages. Sets of three high-intensity discharge lamps in the colors red, green and blue are mounted on the main cables. The RGB colour model and computer technology make for a variety of combinations.

How long did it take to build the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge?

Ten years (1988 -1998)

What is the longest span bridge in the world?

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

Why is the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge called the Pearl Bridge?

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is called the ‘Pearl Bridge’ because of the 28 different patterns and various colors of lights used to illuminate her at night. When illuminated it gives the appearance of beautiful pearls on a necklace.

Who designed Akashi Kaikyo Bridge?

Honshu Shikoku Bridge Authority

When was Akashi Kaikyo opened to public?

April 5, 1998