The Kyoto shrine famous for thousands of vermilion torii gates will spirit you away to a mystical world of beauty this weekend at its famous annual night-time festival.
Fushimi Inari Shrine (or “Fushimi Inari Taisha” in Japanese) ranks as one of the top must-see sightseeing spots in Kyoto, with thousands of visitors travelling from all corners of the globe each year to walk beneath the long stretches of vermilion torii gates that trail up through the wooded forest of sacred Mount Inari, which houses the famous shrine.
While its beauty is evident year-round, the shrine glows with a mystical aura on one special night each July, as thousands of red lanterns are lit and hung throughout the grounds, decorating the walkways with an eerie glow. With this year’s event due to be held this weekend, on the night of 23 July, we take a look at a collection of photos from last year’s festival, kindly shared with us by Twitter user @marostyle. Filled with an otherworldly beauty, these photos make us want to pack our bags and head down to Kyoto for the weekend to enjoy everything the festival has to offer.
Fushimi Inari is considered to be the most important out of thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Inari’s messengers are believed to appear as foxes, which can be found all over the shrine grounds as stone statues, often wearing red bibs as seen on either side of the entrance below.
During the yearly night-time festival, thousands of paper lanterns light the way with an eerie red glow, creating a mysterious landscape that looks like something from a Studio Ghibli animated film.
One of the many summer traditions of Kyoto, this event is officially known as the “Yoimi-ya” or “Festival Eve” which is held at the shrine on the night before the official day of thanks, celebrated as the “Motomiya-sai”, or “Main Shrine Festival”. The spiritual evening event has become an integral part of the Motomiya Festival, which is held to express gratitude to the deity for the many blessings received throughout the year.
While the summer lantern festival is spectacular in its beauty, the dim light means visitors who come to pray here need to be careful of uneven ground on walkways, and festival organisers caution that people should stay well hydrated during the hot evening and watch out for bugs like mosquitos, which are to be expected as the area is set in a beautiful natural environment.
As these photos show, the mysterious, spiritual atmosphere at the night-time festival makes for an evening to remember, and is a unique way to visit the famous shrine if you’re lucky enough to be in the area during the event period. Held on just one night every year, it’s a beautiful event you don’t want to miss!
Fushimi Inari Taisha Motomiya Festival/伏見稲荷大社本宮祭
Address: Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Fushimi-ku, Fukakusa, Yabunouchicho 68
Hours: 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (23 July 2016); 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (24 July 2016) [Dates change yearly]