Over the years, there have been quite a number of interesting locations in Japan, which served as the backdrop for several Hollywood films.
One such place is the Fushimi Inari Taisha, a Shinto shrine located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto. The shrine is famous for the thousands of vermilion torii (gates) lining the paths on the hill on which the shrine is situated. It is also famous for being featured in the film, Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). The film was based on a novel by American author, Arthur Golden (1997) and told in the first person perspective the experiences of a fictional geisha working in Kyoto before and after World War II.
The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and is often associated with wealth. The kitsune (foxes) are believed to be Inari’s messengers, hence you will encounter numerous kitsune statues on the shrine grounds. The torii are all donated by individuals, families and organizations. The gates are considered offerings to the shrine. You will find the donator’s name and the date of the donation inscribed on the back of each gate. The cost of the gates start around ¥400,000 for a small sized gate and can run over ¥1,000,000 for a large gate.
At the shrine’s entrance stands the Romon Gate, which was donated in 1589 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi was a famous daimyo (feudal lord), warrior, general, samurai and politician during Japan’s Sengoku period (Warring States period) and is regarded as Japan’s second great unifier. At the very back of the shrine’s main grounds is the entrance to the torii gate covered hiking trail, which starts with two dense, parallel rows of gates called Senbon Torii (thousands of torii gates). After trekking through the torii lined hiking paths, you can stop at various food stalls that specialize in kitsune udon, a popular noodle dish named after the god’s messengers.
The hike to the summit and back will take anywhere from 2-3 hours. Along the way, you will find countless smaller shrines with stacks of miniature torii gates that were donated by visitors on a smaller budget.
The shrine with its many torii seems almost a surreal place that was created by Hollywood but in fact it is very real and dates back to even before the capital of Japan was moved to Kyoto.
Fushimi Inari Taisha is located just outside the JR Inari Station, the second station from Kyoto Station along the JR Nara Line. The shrine is also just a short walk from Fushimi Inari Station along the Keihan Main Line.