Near the base of Mount Inari (Inariyama), past the stairs that lead from the Hondo (worship hall) to the path that climbs the sacred mountain, lies the famous “Path of a Thousand Torii” – a tunnel made of sacred gates that has become a familiar, iconic image of Japan:
Torii are traditional Shintō gates that mark the entrance to a sacred space. Commonly found at the entrance to Shintō shrines (and other sacred spaces), they abound at Fushimi Inari. All of the mountain’s ten thousand-plus torii were donated by private donors (including some of Japan’s largest corporations).
The gates cover virtually the entire mountain, but nowhere are they packed as closely as on the “Path of 1000 Torii” (Senbon Torii).
At the start of the path, enormous torii tower twenty and thirty feet high, dwarfing visitors.
These torii are close together, but not nearly as close as the lower gates that make up the second part of the Senbon Torii path. Here, the path divides in two – the path on the right is used by people ascending the path toward the shrine at the path’s far end, while the one on the left is used by those returning to the base of the mountain.
Inside the path, the gates are placed so close together that the light takes on an orange hue:
At many times of day, the path is crowded. I like visiting early in the morning (before 8am) when I can experience the path alone.
The shrine beyond the path is a sacred space, so I don’t take photographs there, but if you visit Fushimi Inari, you’ll find a small shop with snacks, sacred amulets, and plaques for making petitions to Inari, as well as a number of subshrines and sacred spaces, set in the middle of an old-growth forest of maples, pines, and bamboo.
(Click here for the next installment of this journey up the sacred mountain.)