Memorable moment – Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Shrine, KyotoDateline: 27 June 2015

Fushimi Inari Taisha is an important Shinto shrine in the southern Kyoto area. The shrine itself is interesting, but what most visitors go there to see is the thousands of vermillion torii gates that wind from the rear of the shrine up the through the woods of Mount Inari.

The torii gates create reddish-orange tunnels, and the path of gates starts with two very densely arranged parallel rows of gates. Each gate (and yes, there are THOUSANDS of them) has been donated by individuals or companies, with their names and the date of donation written in black on the back (i.e. the uphill side) of each gate. The gates don’t come cheap. A small one will require a 400,000 yen donation and a big one can be as much as 1,000,000 yen.

The gates wind a route to the top of Mount Inari (233m) and to hike the whole way up and back takes at least two hours. Along the way, there are a numbers of smaller shrines and their associated torii gates (which I believe are cheaper donations) and some food outlets/restaurants. You could, quite literally, make a whole day of it, taking your time on the stroll to the top and back, stopping to explore smaller shrines and to eat along the way.

We, however, did not have a whole day. We had about two hours altogether. So we opted to walk up to the Yotsutsuji intersection, which is about 30-45 minutes up the path. At that point, the path splits off, with a circular path continuing on up to the summit, another returning to the shrine via a direct route, or you can just turn around and go back down through the gates you’ve already walked up through.

In my opinion, the best photos at Fushimi Inari are the ones going back down through the gates, as you get the black writing contrasting with the bright orange. And a shot of the gates, devoid of people is the ultimate Kyoto ‘money shot’. But that is easier said than done. The place is swarming with people. With visitors going both up and down on the same path, there’s very few opportunities to frame up a shot before someone walks into it.  I gave it a good go, but it was almost impossible to get a photo without other people in it and find the best light. It was very frustrating.

In the steamy heat, the rest of the Fairlie Entourage had lost patience by that point, and they had walked on ahead of me. I started to wander back down to the shrine.  As I rounded a bend I saw the couple in yukata ahead of me, and the light was perfect.  I snapped a quick pic, and it is my favourite photo of that day.

What magic photo opportunities have appeared in front of you?

Memorable moments’ are those travel memories of a time, a place or an experience that stick with you and bring a smile to your face years later. Here on the blog, the ‘Memorable Moments’ series is like a set of postcards on the fridge – each one a snapshot and the short story about what made that moment memorable.

Creating memorable moments is no accident. If you would like to know my method for doing it, download your free copy of my e-guide: Memorable Moments: How to pack your travel itinerary full of opportunities to create those memories.

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