When it comes to fall colors, Fushimi Inari Taisha doesn’t make a lot of ‘best of’ lists for shrines & temples to visit in Kyoto, Japan during the autumn. This is really unfortunate, as I’d argue that it can be one of the better spots for fall foliage in Kyoto.
I understand why Fushimi Inari is conspicuously absent from top 10s. A lot of listicles are compiled not from firsthand visits to places, but while sitting at a computer far away–and with reference to what’s already been written. Moreover, Fushimi Inari doesn’t seems like it offers much in the way of any natural beauty on an intuitive level.
The only color most visitors are going to see is the endless vermillion of the torii gates. Those who never venture beyond the Senbon Torii, a densely packed loop, will see scarcely any momiji trees. However, those who seek adventure by continuing up Mt. Inari through the rest of the shrine will be rewarded with an embarrassment of fall colors…
Fushimi Inari is by far the most documented shrine on this blog. While some other locations recommended in our Kyoto itineraries don’t even have dedicated info pages (yet), this spot already had three dedicated posts about it before this one. Given that, we aren’t going to rehash basics about Fushimi Inari here. This is all about how to find the best fall colors spots at Fushimi Inari, and sharing photos from our explorations.
If you want to know more, please refer to our Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine Tips & Info post, which offers a comprehensive photo tour and suggestions for visiting. For further reading, our Night at Fushimi Inari post implores readers to take an enchanted evening stroll through the shrine and our Secret Bamboo Forest at Fushimi Inari post does the same with that hidden gem spot.
This post is all about Fushimi Inari’s other secret: that it’s actually an exceptional spot for seeing fall colors in Kyoto. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, rather than just paying a cursory visit to a place to “check it off the list,” Fushimi Inari Shrine will be your best experience in all of Kyoto.
Even if you’re indifferent to fall colors (in which case you probably could’ve planned a trip during a less-busy time of year, but whatever), we recommend this approach with Fushimi Inari.
It’s one of Japan’s most popular tourist attractions year-round, and the hordes of crowds that make the initial areas of the torii loops almost impassable can put a damper on what should be an unforgettable experience.
Stated differently: going deeper into Fushimi Inari is necessary both for truly experiencing the serene side of the shrine, and for seeing the beautiful autumn foliage. It’s a two birds with one stone kinda deal.
There are two options for seeing beautiful foliage at Fushimi Inari. The first, and by far the more straightforward and approachable option, is simply going all the way to the summit of Mt. Inari via the shrine’s normal route. Once you get to the summit loop trail, you’ll start seeing a good amount of fall colors.
Make a point of popping into sub-shrines and getting off the main path. You can easily spend over an hour doing the summit loop trail itself, and the more time you allocate to exploring these areas, the more you’ll be rewarded with pretty details and beautiful scenery revealing itself to you.
Once you’re done with this, you can exit the shrine as normal, following the clearly marked signs down. You’ll spot some more foliage this way, and will undoubtedly have a satisfying visit.
With this approach, Fushimi Inari isn’t an elite fall colors spot in Kyoto, but it’s solid.
Alternatively, if you’re more adventurous, you can take the Fushimi Fukakusa Course of the Kyoto Isshu Circuit Trail down. This connects with the summit loop trail, and is just one small segment of a very long trail that forms a circuit of Kyoto’s eastern and western mountains.
The upside of this approach is that it offers some stunning vistas, overlooking valleys of momiji while taking you through truly serene forest areas. This is actually the reverse of the route we take in our post about the Fushimi Inari Secret Bamboo Forest.
The downside is that the hike is poorly marked, and it can be difficult to find the entrance to the trail from the summit loop path. Once you are on the trail, there are several forks and choosing the wrong direction at any of them can send you off to who-knows-where. However, if you follow the signs towards the JR Station (or your sense of direction) you should be fine.
Along this trail, you’ll also find a number of quiet pockets and sub-shrines that seem like they probably aren’t visited by a single human for days on end, which is a shame given the beauty they contain. It’s a really satisfying experience that’s definitely worth it if you’re willing to risk getting lost.
Ultimately, regardless of the path you take, you’ll have a great experience. While it may not be the best spot in terms of “raw” fall foliage, Fushimi Inari is at its peak in fall. That’s really saying something, as this is always the best shrine in Japan. The stunning torii gates and details of the sub-shrines set against the radiant reds and yellows of the foliage is truly a sight to behold.
If you’re planning a trip to Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend starting by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit!
Have you visited Fushimi Inari Shrine during fall colors season? What did you think of the experience? Do you agree with our assessment, or did you stick to the more ‘enclosed’ areas like the Senbon Torii paths? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Does visiting this shrine in Kyoto interest you? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!