In researching our trip to Japan, everything about the Tori Gates indicated that you should visit them via the Inari Station. We found one reference to an off the beaten path approach and spent time plotting a thru-hike via google maps and All Trails. We didn’t know what to expect following this route to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, but we were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it once we saw the common starting point at Inari Station.
We started by taking an earlier morning train from Tokyo to Kyoto to begin our adventures. We found the bag drop at Kyoto station and saw our first of many kimono wearing ladies. We took the Nara line to Tofukuji Station and walked through the town past some small, “interesting-enough-for-a-walk-through” free temples and shrines.
The beginning of the actual hike once we were through the town started in an unexpected bamboo forest!
There wasn’t much information that we could find previous to the trip besides one rogue guided trip that mentioned a “secret” Tori gate hike and Greg was tasked with researching alternate trails and possible starting places for this hike, and it totally paid off!
From Kyoto Station: Take the JR Nara Line towards Nara and get off at the first stop which is Tofukuji Station. Follow this walking map thru the town to arrive at a trailhead. From there it was very clearly marked by Tori Gates all along the path!
The approach we took was a slower and more moderate incline compared to the fairly steep downhill stretch we faced after summiting the highest shrine. This high point seemed to be the spot that everybody turned around at after climbing from the traditional route for an out and back hike which we only had to hiked down!
A Semi-Private Hike to the Fushimi Inari Shrine
For the first half of our hike, we walked in relative peace and quiet amid many Tori Gates and moss-covered shrines. It wasn’t until we began to descend that we were oppressively bombarded with other people who were both climbing and descending with us. The final descent turned into a game of timing and positioning of one’s self (which became a common thread throughout the trip) to get the iconic pictures that make it look like you’re the “only one” on the path in the Tori Gates!
Coming from the Tofukuji Station and thru-hiking to Inari Station was an entirely different experience than if we did an out-and-back with the hordes of tourists at Inari Station.
In addition to dealing with people ascending, descending, and frequently stopping for the perfect Instagram shot, the climb from Inari Station was considerably steeper and challenging.