Have you ever dreamed of a romantically mystical and truly traditional Japanese wonderland and pondered about the possibility of such a place actually existing today? Have you ever seen the spectacular red wooden gates known in Japanese as “Torii”(pronounced toe-ree)? They are called the “Gates of Happiness” and they are truly beautiful. The country of Japan is full of such gates and one need hardly walk a kilometer or two without finding at least a small one somewhere, however small it may be. You have likely seen photos of a more massive Torii gate at some point as they are a truly iconic aspect of Japanese culture.
Perhaps on television or in a movie you may have seen a wonderfully magical place where there was seemingly a tunnel of massive and beautiful red wooden Torii gates painted with Japanese calligraphy that was so beautiful that it may have been difficult to believe it could possibly be an actual place on this planet today. A place with romantic and mystical ambiance that is truly astonishing to the point of making one wonder if it was a dream or simply Hollywood magic. This is one of those special dreams that is as wonderful in person as it is in the movies, if not even more wonderful.
It is called Inari Jinja and it is a thoroughly amazing experience beyond anything a guidebook or movie could ever possibly convey. The fact that it exists today in such a beautiful form is reason enough to make a journey to Japan in its honor. It may not be the top on the guidebooks as there are many wonderful and gigantic temples that are truly spectacular in Kyoto and its surrounding areas, but it has many special aspects that make it truly unique. It is essentially a mountain forest with beautiful natural scenery and kilometers of mystical Torii gates acting as a tunnel through the trees. The main shrines are amazing and the many statues in the area truly wonderful. To know Inari is to love Inari and one can easily be swooning with romantic bliss in such a wonderful place. It is as though it is a thousand years ago in ancient Japan. The wonderful views of the city below are some of the only clues to the modernity, that and the occasional convenient vending machines for when you get thirsty on the way. It is yet another perfect blend of modern and ancient that is Japan today.
To get to Inari Jinja take the train from Kyoto station, or whatever station is closest to where you are staying in Kyoto, to Fushimi Inari station and follow the crowds during the day or ask the conductor at the station if going at night. A day trip and a night trip are both recommended, so spending an afternoon at the main shrines and an evening exploring the mountain and its wonderful views of Kyoto is a great way to experience the best of Inari and all it has to offer.