Fushimi Inari Shrine at Night

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) is a popular shrine in Kyoto, Japan that is open 24/7. It is especially beautiful at night, and this post features night photos and tips. Visiting Fushimi Inari after sunset is one of the best travel hacks for Japan, as you can avoid crowds at Fushimi Inari by visiting in the evening.

In the latest update to this post, I wanted to share a couple of things. First, I think it’s now even more important than ever that you visit Fushimi Inari either before 9 a.m. or at sunset (staying until nightfall so you get a day/night experience) if you want low crowds. We last returned to Fushimi Inari for a few visits early this year after staying in an Airbnb 5 minutes from the shrine for a month last December, and one thing we noticed was crowds. Consistent, heavy crowds and huge tour groups, even during the off-season when other shrines and temples in Kyoto are not as busy.

Second, on the last night of our stay last December, we had an encounter with a wild boar. We covered this in-depth in our Kyoto Fall & Winter Trip Report – Part 3, so you can read the full story there. Suffice to say, this is not uncommon, and there are signs around the shrine warning visitors about boars. It was not enough to discourage us from returning at night, nor is it enough for me to not recommend it.

To the contrary, night remains my favorite time to experience Fushimi Inari. Just be cognizant of your surroundings and don’t go off-trail at night. In over one-dozen nighttime strolls through Fushimi Inari that trip, I only encountered a boar once, so it’s not exactly an everyday occurrence. With that said, we’ll resume the original post of my first time experiencing the magic of Fushimi Inari at night, with some new photos added…

One thing I really enjoy about traveling is taking time by myself in new places to just wander, absorb, and think. Even when I travel with others, I always make sure to take some time by myself.

It’s usually pretty easy, as I can typically “outlast” most other people in terms of getting up early and staying out late. This alone time is one of my favorite things about traveling, and while I also enjoy the collective travel experience, I feel like I slow down and appreciate things more when it’s just me.

One approach to visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine is hiking up just before sunset, and watching that from the crossroads overlook, which offers a beautiful view of Kyoto.

After that, do the mountain loop while the crowds dissipate, taking your time as you go. Once you’re done with that upper loop, you can head back down to the popular Senbon Torii area, which should be largely devoid of crowds by an hour or so after sunset. (This does vary seasonally based upon how early sunset occurs.)

I’ve already covered this location in my post Is Fushimi Inari Shrine Worth Visiting? You can probably guess the answer to that question since I have revisited it many times. In fact, Fushimi Inari isn’t just “worth visiting,” it’s worth making a special trip to Kyoto to experience.

In our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan we ranked it as our favorite thing to do in the city. We took that a step further in “Our 10 Favorite Things We’ve Experienced in Japan (So Far)” it’s tied for our #1 thing to do in all of Japan. You may not get this feeling if you’re elbow-to-elbow with tour groups wielding selfie sticks during the middle of the day, but I doubt anyone who has visited in the solitude of night has found it to be anything less than an enchanting experience.

For some “contemplative solitude,” Fushimi Inari is the perfect place. One thing that I like about shrines, and any house of worship, really, is that most of the time I don’t feel like you need to be a practitioner of the underlying religion to derive your own bit of spirituality from the shrines.

Those who actually worship at these locations and hold them in sincere reverence might disagree with me there (and I’m certainly not contending that these places have as much of a profound impact on me as they do the religious), but I typically feel reflective at these places.

I think this partly because shrines typically offer a respite from the chaos of day to day life, and partly a result of the second-hand contact of others’ spirituality. Whatever the case, I find visiting these places of worship to be an impacting experience that triggers some sort of reflection in me.

Visiting late in the evening on a rainy night definitely lent itself to this. While I lost that feeling of ‘communal spirituality’ due to being the only person around, this was easily made up for by being truly alone with my thoughts. It was a great experience that led to me thinking deeply about various things (assuming that I’m actually capable of deep thought).

All of this is basically a rambling and round-about way of saying: if you have the chance to visit Fushimi Inari alone at night, I highly recommend taking it. The atmosphere was excellent, and conducive to a fuller appreciation of the shrine.

Fushimi Inari is one of the few shrines in Kyoto open after 6 pm (it’s open 24/7/365), and it’s illuminated at night with just enough light that it’s not too dangerous to walk, but it’s also not so bright that the atmosphere is spoiled. In some places, it’s actually a bit moody, as you can probably tell from the shadow-y photos above.

If you’re looking for another unique experience (albeit probably not one you should do at night), read our Secret Bamboo Forest at Fushimi Inari post. That details how to find a hidden bamboo grove and have a serene, away-from-crowds experience during even the busiest time of the day at Fushimi Inari Taisha.

There’s really nothing more profound to say about being at Fushimi Inari at night. Words and photos don’t even begin to convey the experience.

Overall, there are few experiences we love in Kyoto (which, again, is our favorite city in the world) than the serene and tranquil experience of visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine after the hordes and clusters of tour groups have left for the evening. Having the shrine nearly empty is an experience most visitors never have, as this tends to be one of the most crowded spots in Kyoto. It’s, quite literally, a night and day difference.

If you’re planning a trip to the 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! 

Your Thoughts

Have you visited Fushimi Inari at night? What did you think of it? Do you enjoy solo time when traveling? Like the experience of temples and shrines? Have you been to Fushimi Inari? Any questions about when to visit, wild animals, or anything else? 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!

17 replies
  1. Sarah pope
    Sarah pope says:

    I wanted to thank you so much for this. I lived in kyoto 15 years ago and Fushimi was by far my favourite place to visit. I would grab a book, wander up, get soba and green tea from a little tea house… it was peaceful and breathtaking all wrapped up in green and red.
    So imagine my surprise when i visited for the first time again last year, to find it over run by people and noise. It was still beautiful, but the atmosphere completely altered.
    Thanks to your blog, last night my kids and and i wandered up around 6pm and i was able to show them one of my favourite spots on earth, with no crowds, no queues, and very little noise save cicada and prayer.

    Reply
  2. Helen
    Helen says:

    It’s 4am and I’m in a taxi driving across Kyoto for my first experience of Fushimi Inari, for sunrise. It was number 1 on my list to see and I wanted it to be special! So excited! Thanks for your post 😊

    Reply
  3. Christ
    Christ says:

    That’s not what the Robert frost poem means at all. If anything it means the complete opposite. It means regardless of which road we travel, we always look back on our experiences and create a narrative that makes us think we took the road less traveled.

    Reply
  4. TiffaniChief
    TiffaniChief says:

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  5. Arno
    Arno says:

    If you are looking for the experience described in this post, don’t go during the new year’s holidays. Way too crowded, even 3 hours after sunset.

    Reply
  6. Meena
    Meena says:

    Thanks for the tips. I will soon be travelling there with my family and wanted to get some tips on photography. I am using a Nikon D5000 with a 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens. Also, have a 55-200mm 1.4 to 5.6mm. Appreciate any tips for nighttime and daytime photos.

    Thank you,
    Meena

    Reply
  7. Tanya
    Tanya says:

    This post is now a couple years old but was wondering whether or not to go at night and have now decided to go! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks for the kind words!

      If you can save up for it, it seems like this coming year is the time to visit Japan. The yen keeps getting weaker, making our purchasing power even stronger.

      Reply

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