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.

Yasaka Shrine

Today I went to capture the beauty of Yasaka Shrine, one of Kyoto’s most prominent tourist spots. Yasaka-jinja (八坂神社) is a Shinto shrine in the Gion District of Kyoto. The shrine never lacks in visitors throughout the year due to the various festivals spread across the year. For photographers like me, there is an added incentive that the gates to the shrine remain open at all times, which makes it possible to visit even at late hours when the crowds are comparatively less.

Me and my wife, Mani, were staying in the quiet town of Izumo in Shimane Prefecture. After a lovely week in Shimane where we experienced a beautiful sunset at lake Shinji we were excited to go back to Kyoto, the old capital of Japan. In the early hours, we caught the Yakumo limited express train service operated by JR West, which runs from Izumo to Okayama. As we waited for the train to arrive, we talked about how the cold was a lot easy here, than compared to Nara.

It takes about 3 hours to get to Okayama from Izumo. The ride through the forested prefecture is absolutely beautiful especially with the fall foliage adding vivid colors to the scenery. From Okayama its as easy as catching a Shinkansen to Kyoto. Obviously, we were carrying our JR Passes that makes the whole ride a lot cheaper.

After the long journey from Izumo, we dropped off our luggage at our hotel at Keihan Kyoto Grande. The hotel is just behind the Kyoto Station and very easy to access using underground lanes, beneath the busy streets. After some 7-eleven onigiris, we walked to the bus stand located just outside the Kyoto Station.

To get to Yasaka Shrine from Kyoto Station, you can either take a bus or the Kyoto subway. We chose to take the Kyoto City Bus #206 as it is simpler. The bus ride takes around 21 minutes and it drops you right in front of Yasaka Shrine. It costs ¥230 one way. You can also opt for the daily bus pass if you are planning to make multiple stops along the way. Last I noticed, it was selling for ¥600 per person at the tourist information booth inside Kyoto Station premises.

You can also use the subway to reach the shrine, but I would not recommend it, as it requires you to change multiple trains. The nearest station would be Kawaramachi. From the station, you then have to walk for about 10 minutes to Yasaka Shrine.

The bus dropped us off at Gion, near the east end of Shijō-dōri, overflowing with pedestrians. The street passes through the courtesan’s district of Gion, branching off to the south, with the famous Ichiriki Chaya at the corner. The long sidewalk features small and large restaurants and shops of all kinds on either side of the street.

Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Jinja is believed to have been established a little before the Heian Era in Japan and holds hundreds of years of history. It is dramatically placed at the intersection of Shijō-dōri and Higashioji-dori, and as the bus drops you and moves away, you can see the large vermilion torii (shrine entrance gates) rise out of the hustle and bustle of pedestrian crowds and choking traffic.

A series of steps lead up from the street to the main entrance Nishiromon Gate, holding two wooden guards inside wired chambers on each side. Designated as an important national cultural property, the Nishi-romon Gate is considered the symbol of the Higashiyama district of Kyoto and Yasaka Shrine.

Rather than the usual two nio guardians found in most shrine entrances and some temples, at the Nishi-romon Gate you will see a wooden statue of Zuishin (guardians to the nobles in the Heian Period) on both sides of the gate.

As you pass through the gate and if you are familiar with Japanese shrines, you would notice that there is no Chōzuya, the place where worshipers wash their hands. That is because the Nishiromon Gate is not the front gate to the shrine. In fact the front, or main gate to the shrine is the Minami-romon Gate on the south side of the shrine grounds.

Beyond the gate we found a couple of wooden stalls selling mashed potato fries. The inviting scent of potatoes was enough to entice me to get one. As we waited for the order I captured the two charming shishi lions sitting on high pedestals.

Note how one of them has their mouth open and one doesn’t. Shishi is literally translated as “lion” but it can also refer to a dog with mystical powers to repel evil spirits. A pair of shishi typically stand guard outside the gates of Japanese Shinto shrines.

The open mouth, along with the pierced ball, indicate a male shishi, representing the Yang

They are traditionally depicted in pairs, one with mouth open and one with mouth shut. The opened/closed mouth relates to the sounds “Ah” (open mouth) and “Un” (closed mouth). “Ah” is the first sound in the Japanese alphabet, while “N” (pronounced “un”) is the last. These two sounds symbolize beginning and end, birth and death.

From here a system of walkways run around the shrine grounds towards the main hall.

Smaller Shrines at Yasaka Shrine

The Yasaka shrine is dedicated to Susanoo-no-Mikoto as its chief kami, with his consort Kushinadahime-no-Mikoto on the east, and eight offspring deities (yahashira no mikogami) on the west. There are a number of smaller shrines on the grounds of Yasaka Shrine.

Okuninushisha Shrine

In December one of the most interesting things to watch out for is the fall momiji trees around this area. Most hotels will have a map of Kyoto that you can check daily where the fall is in its full colors.

The movement of foreign religious theologies into Japan during the 6th century led Shinto practitioners to systematize their religious tradition to support Imperial rule. Shinto priests began compiling existing myths and legends into written accounts, and a more intricate mythology was created that gave many of these kami a name and genealogy.

Pictured below is a statue of the son-in-law of Susanoo-no-Mikoto and Kushinadahime-no-Mikoto – Okuninushi-no-Mikoto, who is known as the god of Enmusubi. The son-in-law is shown rescuing an injured rabbit, recreating a famous scene from Japanese mythology.

We gradually made our way through the crowd to reach the open area with the main hall.

History of Yasaka Shrine & Gion Matsuri

Originally designed as a Buddhist temple the date of initial construction of Yasaka Shrine is debated. Initial construction on the Shrine began in 656 CE. However it was not until the middle of the ninth century that Yasaka shrine rose in prominence. Because of its climate and location, Kyoto was often prone to summer illness and sickness, and in 869, the illness reached national epidemic proportions. The illness was thought to be the result of malevolent kami, so Emperor Seiwa ordered the priests of Yasaka Shrine to hold a festival to purify the streets and protect the people from the evil spirits.

The townspeople built sixty-six floats representing the various neighborhoods and paraded them through town. One week later the kami at Yasaka, including Gozu Tenno (commonly known as Susano-o mikoto), were placed in portable shrines and carried throughout the city streets. This was the beginning of the Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival), and Yasaka’s subsequent rise in fame.

In 965, Emperor Murakami ordered that Imperial messengers be sent to report important events to the guardian kami of Japan. Yasaka’s prestige continued to increase due to the Gion Matsuri, and by 970 C.E. the festival had become an annual event.

By the tenth century, the festival included floats, musicians, dancers, plays, and artistic treasures. These heihaku were initially presented to 16 shrines; and in 991, Emperor Ichijō added three more shrines to Murakami’s list. Three years later in 994, Ichijō refined the scope of that composite list by adding Umenomiya Shrine and Gion Shrine.

As the festival grew in importance and popularity, so too did the shrine, and in the late 19th century Yasaka was given the title of Kanpei-taisha meaning that it stood in the first rank of government-supported shrines. Similarly, the Gion Matsuri was elevated to the rank of Grand Festival of Japan and is often considered one of the most popular festivals in all of Japan.

Kyoto Maruyama Park

It was too busy so we decided to walk towards the back of the shrine. The east exit of Yasaka leads to an open garden area with benches for resting, fortune tellers, ice cream shops, and a weeping cherry tree. This area used to be called “Makuzugahara” popular for the traditional Waka poems in the Kamakura period.

Of the mountains surrounding Kyoto on three sides, the ones which are closest to the present downtown area lie in the east. This fact gave the whole eastern region of Kyoto its name, Higashiyama, i. e. Eastern Mountains. Since ancient times this area has been rich in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

While enjoying the beautiful fall scenery, I let myself indulge in some Matcha ice cream. If you haven’t had one, you must, it’s absolutely delicious especially combined with vanilla.

It used to be a scenic spot for viewing Cherry blossom at the foot of Mt. Higashiyama and was later converted to a park in 1886. In 1931, the park was designated as a “Place of Scenic Beauty.”

The garden complex branches out to other side streets, and a bit further back the Chion-in, a Buddhist temple and the head of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism, decorates the mountainside. The garden area is a popular retreat for picnicking couples, tourists, and families on a visit to various shrines and temples.

Yasaka Jinja at Night

As evening crept in, I stationed my tripod to capture some illuminated shots of the Maidono of Yasaka Shrine. Let me alert you from before, the crowd actually increases as evening settles in.

Yasaka Shrine is considered to be a powerful place for love in Kyoto. Enshrined at Yasaka Shrine are the husband and wife gods Susanoo-no-Mikoto and Kushinadahime-no-Mikoto. As the two gods were very close, eventually over time, the shrine became thought of as a spiritual love spot.

You will notice adorable heart-shaped ema hung at the shrine, usually with visitors’ wishes for improved relationships or meeting people. You can write and hang one yourself after purchasing one for a few hundred yen.


The platform is usually empty, except when it is the stage for various local events, plays, and dances. At the festival time the platform also holds the bronze-plated mikoshi (portable shrines) that house the kami temporarily so they can be paraded around.

There are other buildings including a shrine shop for purchasing ema (small wooden prayer plaques) and omomori, the administrative building, and the main shrine building which houses the kami. Only priests, sponsors, and other select people are allowed into the main shrine building.

The main hall stands 15 meters tall and has a roof made of hinoki (Japanese cypress) bark. The architectural style of the building is unique because the roof covers the front shrine as well as the main hall, and this design has become known as Gion-zukuri (Gion construction style).

Minami-romon Tower Gate

Just beyond the entrance gate is a small structure with wooden ladles and water flowing from bamboo pipes used to wash one’s hands and face for purification before entering the main grounds.

Because the crest of Yasaka Shrine resembles the cross-section of a cucumber, there is a custom in Kyoto that prohibits eating cucumbers during the Gion Matsuri festival period.

It has been said that Yasaka Shrine got its start in the early part of the Heian Period when Fujiwara-no-mototsune constructed the Kankei sub-temple, Kanjin hall, and the main hall on the grounds. The present structure was rebuilt in 1654 by the 4th Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Ietsuna.

Legend says that under the main hall there is a bottomless pond that a blue dragon uses as its lair, drawing energy from the ancient water and acting as guardian for the ancient city of Kyoto.

After we had our fill of the place, we left for some well-earned rest at the hotel.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to your reviews and questions. If you are looking to explore more of the Japanese mainland, follow my story as I visit the Gifu Castle.

Inasahama Beach

Inasa Beach (稲佐の浜) is one of the most sacred Japanese beaches located in Japan. It is mentioned several times in Kojiki, said to be the oldest written chronicle in Japan. The book written in ancient words and difficult to read even for the Japanese, speaks of ancient Japanese myths and the beginnings of the island nation itself.

According to the scriptures of the Kojiki, there are said to be 8 million gods. The Amatsukami (heavenly gods) were ruled over by Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess & the most important deity of the Shinto religion. Amaterasu is the daughter of Izanami and Izanagi who made their daughter ruler of the heaven. The Kojiki further states that the earthly world where the people lived was called Kunitsukami, and inside this very earth, exists the realm of the dead referred to as Yomi no Kuni.

After an entertaining afternoon in Hinomisaki we decided to drop in at Inasahama to catch its mesmerizing beauty during sunset. The bus dropped us off at Izumo Taisha stop and from there we just walked to the beach. You can also get down directly at the beach, it has its own stop. We just needed to get some refreshments and some souvenirs from the shops near Izumo taisha.

If you are coming straight from Izumoshi Station area, the bus ride costs about ¥540 per person. We had however previously purchased the “perfect ticket” which allows for a hassle-free travel on local buses. If you are in Izumo for a few days, I would recommend obtaining the “Enmusubi Perfect ticket” from the Izumo Tourist Information Center, inside JR Izumoshi Station. It enables you free rides on Ichibata trains and buses, including Matsue city buses for 3 consecutive days. The ticket also includes discount privileges at many tourist spots.

After walking for about 15 minutes to the west of Izumo-taisha Shrine, the Inasahama gradually emerges from the Sea of ​​Japan – a beach famous for the mythical story of the country’s inception.

Myths surrounding Inasa no Hama Beach

The myth surrounding Inasa no Hama has many variations, but in essence, it is the tale of how Takamagahara (The realm of the Amatsukami) came to be united with Izumo (A kingdom of Kunitsukami).

Takamagahara is a place of heaven in Japanese mythology. In Shinto, Takamagahara is the dwelling place of the heavenly gods (Amatsukami). It is believed to be connected to Earth by the bridge Ama-no-uki-hashi (Floating Bridge of Heaven).

It is said Amaterasu Omikami, the queen of Amatsukami, took grave offense to see Okuninushi, becoming a king of the land of Izumo in the earthly realm. Since she saw Okununishi’s actions as inconsiderate toward the right to rule given to her by her father, Izanagi, she ordered various messengers and negotiators to Izumo, to cease and desist his activities.

It is said that the messengers of heaven clashed their swords on this very beach and negotiated with Okuninushi for the transfer of land to them. After several negotiations, Okuninushi eventually gave in to the desires of Amaterasu and her grandson, Ninigi no Mikoto-sama ascended to the rule of Izumo. In compensation, he was made ruler of the unseen world of spirits and magic on Earth.

As gratitude toward Okuninushi (or some say it was on a condition requested by him) she had Izumo Taisha built for him, and he was to have responsibility and jurisdiction over spiritual affairs, whereas Amaterasu Omikami-sama and her lineage would have responsibility and jurisdiction over physical affairs and government. Per this agreement, all of the kami, Amatsukami and Kunitsukami, would gather at Izumo Taisha every October to talk about affairs of the physical and spiritual. So the story goes!

Even today, the legend is inherited as “Kami-tei Shinto“, and on the 10th day of the 10th month in the lunar calendar, a bonfire is lit on the beach to welcome the 8 million Gods from all over Japan. Interestingly in all of Japan, the gods are away this month, so the month is called, “Kannazuki,” but in Izumo, where the gods gather, the month is called “Kamiarizuki.” Although there are no fancy illuminations or bursting of crackers, it is a ritual with a strict atmosphere that I would want to see at least once in my lifetime.

After the gods have been welcomed at the shore, people march to Izumo Taisha to the sound of flutes and drums with two sacred tree branches called Himorogi housing dragons, sea snakes, and gods at the head. After the celebration at Izumo Grand Shrine, it is said that the eight million gods stay in Izumo Taisha for a week, in the nineteen shrines to the east and west sides of the main shrine, as they hold a meeting, called Kamuhakari, on various matters related to human life.


Inasahama has a white sandy beach and a beautiful coastline. This scenic spot has been selected as one of Japan’s 100 Nagisa Beaches. On the beautiful beach, you cannot miss a small lonely rock standing with a miniature torii and a shrine on the top. The prominent round island at Inasa no Hama known locally as “Benten-jima.” In ancient times, it has been referred to as Okino Gozen and Okinoshima.

The Benten-jima Shrine is dedicated to Toyotama-hime, the daughter of Watatsumi – the God of the sea, and is said to protect seafarers. The beach itself, according to legend, was created during the Kunibiki land pulling, as the God Yatsukamizuomizunu used a rope to pull the land to Izumo and this rope later turned into the sandy Inasa no hama beach.

Benten-jima is not really an island as described by the name. The boulder used to be in the sea in ancient times, so the name “island” was given to it at that point in time. Until around 1965, it was only possible to reach Benten-jima using a temporary wooden bridge over the sea. However, due to changes in the tide, sand has gradually accumulated around the island, and now it is connected to the beach and can be walked to on foot. 

Thanks for reading! Inasa Beach is a nice place to relax during the evenings. If you are visiting Izumo-taisha, do not miss this lovely place. It is just a 15-minute walk from the heritage shrine. If you like my story, please leave a comment or follow my story as I continue to explore one of the holiest places in Japan – Izumo taisha.

Hinomisaki Shrine

After spending a beautiful breezy morning at the Hinomisaki lighthouse, we walked down to the Hinomisaki Shrine, which is just about 15 minutes away. It was pretty easy following the markers leading towards the shrine.

Hinomisaki Shrine was built in honor of two deities with a prominent presence in Japanese mythology: Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, and Susano, the god of storms and the sea. The temple is believed to bring luck in business & travelling.

The weather had greatly improved and the dark grey clouds had scattered away. At the entrance of the shrine grounds a white stone Torii welcomed us into the temple grounds.

As you pass the Torii, you can find a large embossed carving on the side of the path. It depicts the Me-kari shinji, a religious rite of seaweed (wakame) harvesting. Izumo Province is delimited by the mountains of Chūgoku in the south and the Shimane peninsula in the north. In the lowland areas of the central plains, the large-scale opening up of rice-farming land was moving forward in conjunction with the reclamation of lakes and marshes. The mekari rite is performed on the fifth day of the first month of the lunar calendar at Hinomisaki Shrine.

Local fishermen offer their harvests, other than wakame, which are presented to the gods with other food offerings. Wakame can be harvested only after this rite is completed.

Nishengu Shrine Gate

As you keep walking along the cemented path, you will reach the vermilion colored Nishen-gu gate. It looks like most shrine entrance gates but its style is based on based on Gongen-zukuri, a traditional shrine architectural style.

Just beside the Nishen-gu Gate, you will find the chozuya, a purification place, where visitors can purify themselves before visiting the main place of worship. Now, there is a procedure to undergo the purification: pick up the ladle with your right hand and pour water over your left hand, then switch it to your left hand to wash your right hand.

Note: Do not drink water directly from the ladle, spit into the fountain, or return water from the ladle back into the fountain!

Follow it by pouring some water on your cupped hands, then rinse out your mouth with the water in your hands and spit it out beside the fountain. Finally hold the ladle upside down over the ground to let the remaining water trickle down rinsing out the handle.

The purification part is only optional and you can choose not to undergo it if you feel. Once you walk into the main temple premises, you will see two smaller shrines near the gate on either shrines. I am not sure to whom those were dedicated to.

Brief History of Hinomisaki Shrine

What Shimane prefecture lacks in size and population, it makes up for in scenery and ancient mythology. Izumo-taisha, in the middle of the prefecture, is said to be Japan’s oldest Shinto shrine, where stories that delve into the creation of the Japanese archipelago have been passed down over centuries.

Encircled by a grove of old pine trees, the vermilion-lacquered Hinomisaki is an ancient Shinto shrine standing on Cape Hino. Though not as popular as Izumo-Taisha, its name is recorded as the “Misa Gisha” in the ancient text of the “Izumo no Kuni Fudoki.” Hinomisaki Shrine is in fact the collective term for two shrines—the Hishizumi no Miya, dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu-omikami and the Kami no Miya, dedicated to the god Susano-no-mikoto.

Izumo Fudoki was a collection of books created as a result of Imperial edict in 713 CE, ordering each province to gather detailed information of its region.

The current Hinomisaki shrine was built by the Matsue domain at the order of Iemitsu Tokugawa, the third shogun of the Edo Shogunate. The current main shrine was started by Tadaka Kyogoku, who was the lord of the Matsue domain at the time, in 1634. It was completed in 1644 under the supervision of Matsudaira Naomasa.

A grandchild of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, Matsudaira Naomasa is remembered for his valor in the Battle of Osaka (1615) at the young age of 14. The empowerment of Naomasa as the lord of the Matsue domain marked the start of the longest reign a single-family held at Matsue Castle, spanning 10 generations (1638-1871).

In years when he was resident in Izumo, he would frequently tour the province under the pretext of visiting the grand shrine of Izumo Taisha and Hinomisaki Shrine, practicing falconry, and making forays into the innermost reaches of Izumo. On such occasions, he would often stay with wealthy local farmers, using their private residences as a headquarters for his own retinue.

Hishizumi no Miya

As I mentioned before, Hinomisaki Shrine was built in honor of two deities with a prominent presence in Japanese mythology: Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and Susanoo, the god of storms and the sea. The Hishizumi no Miya hall is dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, considered Shinto’s most important kami.

Initially, Amaterasu Omikami was enshrined on the Kyojima Island (Fumishima) just off the coast of Kiyoenohama, about 200 meters from this place.

At the time Hinomisaki Shrine was built, the area was a prosperous seaport, and the local lord commissioned the shrine to stand guard over the coast and protect the area’s trade. The vermilion-lacquered shrine pavilions were based on Gongen-zukuri, a traditional shrine architectural style. Being a valuable architectural work of the early Edo Period, the shrine is designated as a nationally important cultural property.

Gongen-zukuri is the name of a complex Shinto shrine structure in which the haiden, or worship hall, and the honden, or main sanctuary, are interconnected under the same roof in the shape of an H.

The shrines with white walls and wooden cuts, and the pillars and cross-cuts painted in red are the Gongen structure that both the upper shrine and the main shrine are connected to, leaving the glamorous image of the Momoyama period.

On the roof of the shrine, the symbols of the three gods “Souboutsuson”, “Amaterasu Omikami” and “Tsukiyomison” are engraved. The engraving in the center which consists of three circles, may look like simple geometric shapes, but actually they represent the sun goddess Amaterasu, the moon god Tsukuyomi, and the sea god Susano.

You can also find a depiction of the “Three Wise Monkeys,” which originated in Japan and have become a familiar motif in cultures the world over.

Kamino miya Honden

The Kami no Miya hall is dedicated to Susano-no-mikoto. The grains of sand from within the grounds of Hinomisaki-jinja are much in demand for Land Breaking ceremonies. For a very long time, the sand is thought to have protective properties so is a very popular charm among worshipers.

Shrine protecting the night

The Hinomisaki shrine is related to the famous Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture in a spiritual way. Ise Shrine in the east where the sun rises, and Hinomisaki Shrine in the west where the sun sets. The shrine (more specifically, the Hishizumi no Miya), famously protects Japan’s night, as opposed to Ise Jingu shrine, which protects Japan’s day.

Because the shrine was intentionally built to face the west in the direction of the setting sun, Hinomisaki Shrine has been seen as the guardian of the night once the day sets in Japan.

Every August 7th, a special shrine sunset festival is held. The festival is open to all visitors.

This is a much more compact shrine than Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, with a different atmosphere. It is designated as an important cultural property of the country as a valuable shrine structure including all structures inside the complex including stone structures. It is well worth visiting both.

Thanks for reading! Leave me a comment if you liked my journal or follow my story as I hurry towards Izumo Taisha to capture the most revered of all shrines in Japan

What are the shrine visiting hours?

8:30a.m. – 4:30p.m.

Admission Fees


Who built Hinomisaki Shrine?

The current shrine was started by Tadaka Kyogoku, who was the lord of the Matsue domain at the time, in 1634 CE, but it was completed by Naomasa Matsudaira in 1644 CE.

How to reach Hinomisaki Shrine?

Get off at the end of the bus bound for Hinomisaki from JR Izumo Station. 1 minute walk from the bus stop.

Photo Walk to Kasuga Taisha

The sun was shining again and I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to explore Kasuga Taisha. We had missed going inside the shrine on the day we went for a walk in the Nara Deer Park and it looked like a lovely day to fix it.

Kasuga Taisha was built in 768 CE by Lord Fujiwara, by the order of Emperor Shotoku. It enshrines four gods from important shrines around the country. From the 8th century, as the Fujiwara dynasty grew in clout, the Kasuga shrine also prospered. Kasuga Taisha became so powerful that even Emperors came to worship here. During that time, the Fujiwara clan wielded such huge amount of political influence that some emperors even married daughters from this clan.

I had stashed up a handful of acorns the day before when I was at Toshodaiji. As I walked past the Deer park, herds came running towards me with needy smiles. After feeding them, I sat in the park for a few minutes with my camera bag doubling up as a back pillow.

The deer gleefully loitered in the verdant greens, munching on the soft grass. It was funny sometimes as they would head-butt the visitors with senbei in their hands and chase them around the park.

The males would keep an eye on the females and if anyone wandered too far they would run after them screeching at them to rejoin the herd.

After an hour of lazying in the soft sun, I started towards the Kasuga Taisha shrine. The road to the shrine goes through a truly primordial forest. The wide gravel path is lined on both sides with hundreds of moss-covered stone lanterns. These lanterns numbering around 2000, are lit during Lantern Festivals in early February and mid August, which must be an awe-inspiring sight.

At the gate, a pair of Shishi, lion-dogs stood guard. The lion-dogs also called Koma-inu, traditionally stand guard outside the gates of most Japanese Shinto shrines. In contrast, the Buddhist temples are typically guarded by the Nio Protectors. As guardians outside the shrine gate, one Shishi is depicted with its mouth open, to scare off demons, and the other with its mouth closed, to shelter the good spirits.

A few minutes up the path is the main entrance. The whole shrine is painted in bright red with green accents. I stood near the entrance to get a clean shot without people, but they just kept streaming in. The priestesses were dressed in lovely red & white Kimono. Near the shops, you can find some ema wood planks hanging with prayers from the visitors.

Near the gate the fortune-telling stalls were doing good business. The outer area is free, but to enter the shrine, one has to pay an admission fee. After waiting for some time, once the crowd thinned out, I went to the admission booth. The ticket cost me ¥500. Inside the path is marked with arrows for tourists.

While outside all lanterns are made from stone, the ones inside are cast in bronze. Some of them are covered with gold leaf. The architecture of the Shrine is known as the “Kasuga style” due to the unique shape of its roof.  

According to Japanese Shinto rituals, shrines were generally destroyed and rebuilt every 20 years for purification. So, technically the current structure as of today is the 57th Kasuga Shrine, an exact reconstruction based on the original layout.

Main Lantern

The first hall I walked into was the prayer room or Kyojyo. A priest was reciting Sutras. Shinto worship is highly ritualized, and follows strict conventions of protocol, order and control.

Past the prayer room, I reached a corridor lined with many bronze lanterns.

At the far end of the corridor was a closed room. The room was dark and dimly lit by the lanterns. It was an un-earthly experience inside the room. I had to really crank up the ISO to take this shot.

I circled back towards the front area. There I found many more golden lanterns hanging in a neat row.

To the left of the front building was another path. I followed it towards the back of the shrine.

There are a couple of smaller shrines towards the back, surrounded by thick green grove. I walked around taking some pictures.

It was evening and time for me to head back to the university cafeteria for an early dinner.

Admission Timings

6:00 to 18:00 (April to September)
6:30 to 17:30 (October to March)

Admission Fees

¥ Free (outer area)
500 Yen (inner area)


768 CE

Built by

Lord Fujiwara, by the order of Emperor Shotoku