Lol, it’s true, I went back to Fushimi Inari Shrine a third time before leaving Kyoto. It was getting late in the afternoon and I was thinking that it would be nice to watch a sunset, so I returned to the shrine with the intention of hiking up to the rest area halfway up the mountain. There were tons of people at the shrine when I arrived and I tried to navigate the crowds quickly as I headed up the trail.
The Senbon Torii area of Fushimi Inari was absolutely jam-packed with visitors and I got slowed down in the torii gate hallways. As I steadily moved forward I was glad that I had already gotten a chance to see Senbon Torii early in the morning before the crowds had shown up.
I hurried along the trail and arrived at the rest area just as sun had disappeared below the horizon. Ideally I would have gotten there half an hour earlier and witnessed a full sunset but it will still nice to be up there and watch the last rays of light disappear from the sky.
When it had gotten dark I started making my way down the mountain and this experience was what made my third visit to Fushimi Inari special. At night the shrine remains open and there are lights scattered along the pathway to help visitors keep their footing. The thousands of torii gates along the path create a web of shadows that you pass through as you walk the trail and it’s almost like you’ve been transported to a totally different place. If you visit Fushimi Inari at night be sure to bring a flashlight or have your phone’s light ready because there are a couple dark areas on the trail that aren’t properly lit.
Back at Senbon Torii there were still a few people mulling about but the big tourist crowds were gone. Hanging lanterns provide a bit of light within the torii gate hallways and the patches of light make for some interesting views.
Down at the lower shrine area I took a quick look at some of the shrine buildings before heading out to return to my hostel. Much like climbing all the way to the top of mountain behind the shrine, visiting Fushimi Inari at night isn’t a high-priority item for anyone touring Kyoto but if you’ve already accomplished your other sightseeing goals and want to do something interesting at night then perhaps stop by the shrine and check it out. Fushimi Inari is open 24-hours a day, so you can visit whenever you like.