A Thousand Torii…Or Were There Thirty Thousand?

I didn’t try to count them. But today I definitely saw enough torii to last me for a lifetime.


The Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine on Inariyama hill just south of downtown Kyoto is famous for its vermillion-colored torii gates, which number anywhere from 4,000 to over 30,000 depending on which source you choose to believe. After walking the entire 4+ kilometer path through the gates I lean towards the lower end of that range.  Environmental artist Christo was likely inspired by them when he created his art installation The Gates (7,503 orange fabric gates) in New York’s Central Park in 2005.

Inari is the Shinto god of rice, historically the primary food of Japan. Apparently, the torii at the shrine are each paid for by a Japanese business in hopes of gaining good fortune. As a business practice this strikes me as silly, but no more delusional than any other religious belief, and at least this is a harmless one. It does keep people employed; this person’s job is definitely for life…


Walking the route we came across numerous stands selling drinks and various sorts of offerings to place at the innumerable small shrines along the way.


Some of the gates were in need of repair, showing signs of rot at the post bases, and many needed repainting. The route was crowded at the start, but then thinned out dramatically partway up the hill.

I enjoyed this metal sculpture of a fox above a tsukubai (stone water basin).


If you stepped just outside the gates the view was very different.

After a lengthy climb we reached a level spot that Rosemary thought might be the top. Looking at the scene — three Japanese girls starting at their phones next to a soft drink vending machine — I told her I thought we still had a ways to go. A bit later we came across six young guys from New York, and I took a group photo for them. A final short climb and we were are the real top of the hill.

Then it was time to descend, with a brief pause to take in a view of the city below.

Next post about our Kyoto trip >>> Evening Scenes

One thought on “A Thousand Torii…Or Were There Thirty Thousand?

  1. Pingback: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Katsura Imperial Villa… | Electric Travels

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