My favorite place in Japan from a tourist’s point of view is probably Fushimi Inari Taisha, the large shrine to Inari, diety of cereal grains and business. It’s a really quick train ride away from central Kyoto. If you read Japanese, you might be interested in the official site.
Even if you’ve never been, you’re probably already familiar with the site. It was featured in Memoirs of a Geisha. It was also the inspiration for the art installation “The Gates” by Christo and Jean-Claude. The epic arrangement of Shinto gates (鳥居 / torii) packed so tightly together creates an amazing, surreal illusion – you feel as though you’re walking through an otherworldly hallway.
I’ve been to Fushimi Inari Taisha 4 or 5 times now, and it sure doesn’t get old. It’s sort of like Miyajima in that it stands apart from other shrines and temples. If that sort of thing isn’t up your alley, you may find yourself thinking “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” You won’t get that feeling here. Visiting at different times of day, in different seasons, etc. all change the scenery drastically.
I included Fushimi Inari in my old student travelogue from my study abroad days. You can see a video clip that I put together by clicking here (it will open in an overlay) or by visiting the original. I also wrote about it a few years ago when I spent Christmas vacation in Kyoto at the J-Hoppers hostel with friends, including J-Web vlogger/blogger Claytonian.
If you do go, I recommend taking the extra time to wander up to the upper loop past the lakes. I love the view at the top – you can even see Kyoto Tower. Most people tend to go a little bit into it and turn back, imagining that things look the same all the way up. The truth is, the scenery changes. Fox statues, mini-torii and all sorts of devotionals, incense burners, and the like are scattered throughout the area. Perhaps you’ll meet and befriend a shrine cat there like I’ve done on more than one occasion.
The theme for this Japan Blog Matsuri was “your favorite place in Japan.” It’s being hosted by Shane at the Nihon Sun.