Fushimi Inari to Tofukuji Hike
When visiting the incredible Fushimi Inari shrine in southern Kyoto for the first time, there are too many routes to check them all out; most visitors simply follow part or all of the main trail up, and perhaps the loop trail around the summit of the mountain. And if that’s what you do, you’re sure to be impressed.
But at the same time, if that’s all you do you’ll be missing out on a bunch of cool little sub-shrines, waterfalls, and forest trails. In fact there’s so much to Fushimi Inari that I’ve dedicated several pages to the place! For a really in-depth look at all the nooks & crannies of Fushimi Inari, see my complete guide here, and for a hiking route through Fushimi Inari Shrine and then traversing Mt Inari via the bamboo forest trail to Yamashina, see here. Fushimi Inari’s also the starting point of the Kyoto Isshu Trail’s Higashiyama Course (the Kyoto Isshu Trail is a 70km hiking trail through the hills surrounding the city).
For something a little less involved than that but still taking in some hidden extras in addition to the usual route, this page details a walking route from Fushimi Inari Shrine to the nearby Tofukuji Temple (another of Kyoto’s most famous sites, especially in autumn) via one of the forest trails on the backside of Mt Inari (featuring a waterfall shrine with my favourite set of moss-covered fox statues among all the many foxes on this entire statue-covered mountain):
This hike’s particularly good in autumn, as Tofukuji is one of Kyoto’s best colour spots (be ready for crowds at Tofukuji though), while Fushimi Inari also has a good number of maple trees and the vermillion torii gates work nicely with the red leaves:
Fushimi Inari to Tofukuji Maps & Route
Starting from either Inari Station (JR Nara Line) or Fushimi Inari Station (Keihan Line), make your way up to the main shrine buildings and then follow the main torii-lined route up the mountain.
See here for full details of the main route; once you reach the Yotsusuji intersection (四つ辻) at the top of the main trail, feel free to do the quick detour to the lookout point up to the left:
To continue on the hike to Tofukuji, go straight ahead (i.e. clockwise on the summit loop trail) from Yotsusuji. This is the shortest route, but skips most of the summit loop; if you want to include the summit loop, take the trail up the steps to the right from Yotsusuji (i.e. heading anti-clockwise on the loop trail).
For full details on the summit loop trail, see here. If you go straight ahead from Yotsusuji, you’re aiming to leave the loop trail at what I call the horse shrine (owing to the pair of horse statues), which is a walk of around 5 minutes from Yotsusuji. You pass a couple of sub-shrines on the way, including the one with this neat fox fountain:
The horse statues aren’t directly visible from the trail, being slightly tucked away, but they look like this:
The turnoff for the horse shrine from the loop trail is up these steps on the right:
At the junction in these two pics the horses are up the stairs on the right, the summit loop is straight on, and the route to Tofukuji is down the stairs on the left.
Taking the left turning, you’ll be walking down a long flight of steps through the forest for 5 minutes until you arrive at the waterfall shrine with the moss-covered foxes.
If you decide to turn right from Yotsusuji, you can go all the way round the summit loop to the horse shrine and proceed as above, or a bit more directly you can turn right off the main loop trail at this point:
This is just next to the little sub-shrine which has this little waterfall tucked around the corner at the back:
Which is at the foot of these steps on the loop trail:
If you leave the loop trail there you’ll be descending a long flight of steps which converges with the steps from the horse shrine (as described above) at the moss-covered fox shrine:
From Yotsusuji, if you go clockwise you should reach the moss-covered foxes in around 15 minutes; if you go the long way round the summit loop it’ll be more like 40 minutes.
In either case, from there you can turn left or right along the forest trail at this junction:
Turning right takes you through the bamboo forest to Yamashina as described here; turning left takes you towards Tofukuji.
After turning left you’re walking on a good path through the forest on a gradual downward slope; after 5 minutes or so you come to this turning:
The path up to the left is a detour to another cool little sub-shrine, this one a waterfall channelled over the back of a snake statue:
It takes 7 or 8 minutes to walk up to it from the forest path (if you continue going up past the snake shrine, it brings you back up to the viewpoint at the top of Fushimi Inari again). Once you’re done there, go back down to the forest path and keep walking down for another 5 to 10 minutes until you find yourself coming back to suburbia, with a few houses appearing alongside the stream. Don’t take the bridge over the stream though; instead, go up the path to the left.
(If you cross the stream, you can follow the Kyoto Isshu Trail for hours (or days!) all the way up to Kiyomizu Temple, Mt Hiei, and beyond. You can see this trail post next to the bridge:
But that’s a much more involved hike! See here for full details on the Kyoto Isshu Trail)
From the top of the path, just go straight down the road in front of you, bearing left when it splits.
At the end of that road, go down this one:
At the bottom of that, you can enter Tofukuji Temple via a side-entrance on your right. Tofukuji’s a major temple with a few pretty massive structures, including the imposing Sanmon Gate and a main hall with a famous (and very tricky to photograph!) dragon fresco:
In any other place, Tofukuji would be the pride of the city, but in temple-saturated Kyoto it often gets overlooked – except in autumn, when visitors flock from far & wide to see its colours.
You can freely wander round the main grounds, but entrance to Tofukuji’s famous gardens requires a paid ticket (400 yen at time of writing). The gardens are nice and include Tsutenkyo, a grand old covered wooden footbridge across the steam; it’s at its most impressive in autumn, when the massed ranks of maple trees below turn a fiery red in their last show of defiance against the coming winter. If you’re there in autumn, it’s probably worth paying to enter the gardens, though be prepared for some serious crowds; if you don’t want to pay or can’t stand the shuffling crowds, a good tip is to exit the temple’s main entrance and turn right, where you’ll find a public path crossing another bridge over the same stream. This footbridge isn’t quite as grand, but it’s still nice and you can see the same autumn colours from the opposite angle (with a view of the Tsutenkyo bridge included); you’ll still have to wait your turn and jostle elbows to take photos, though.
The autumn colours at Tofukuji really are magnificent; at their peak, the shade of the leaves is such a bright red it looks fake:
Throughout the rest of the year, Tofukuji doesn’t get so many visitors, and unless you’re a fan of Zen gardens they’re probably skippable; just walk round to the public footbridge and check out the view from there. Here’s how it looks in summer:
From the public footbridge, follow the road in a zigzag down to Tofukuji Station (served by both the JR Nara and Keihan lines) and a train on to wherever you’re going next (if you do this hike early enough in the morning, you can jump on a train to Nara (30 minutes) to see the Great Buddha; or vice versa, visiting Nara first and hiking Fushimi Inari in the afternoon – just keep in mind that Tofukuji closes at 4pm in summer and during the autumn leaf season, and 3:30pm in winter)
Any questions or comments about Fushimi Inari or Tofukuji? Give me a shout below and I’ll get back to you.
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