Inari Shrine – Pro tips to get a good picture despite the tourists

How to take great pictures at Inari Shrine

Inari Shrine is one of the photographic crown jewels, particularly for Kyoto. The way the red gates seemingly extend for miles is truly mesmerising.

The shrine is located in Kyoto and regardless of whether or not you want to take pictures here it’s worth a visit.

I won’t be covering the shrine itself on this post as that has been done countless of times before me and really you should just go to wikipedia to know more about it.

What I’ll be covering here is How to get a good picture at Inari Shrine.

Due to my schedule, I went to the shrine during a saturday and rather late during the day so clearly it was filled with people and tourists.

Now this would probably ruin any shot you want to make, if you have 50 people on the frame it looks cluttered and ugly.

Truthfully you probably want nobody on the shot and with so many people around it might look like a lost cause, but fear not, here I will help you land that perfecto postcard shot you wanted ever since you booked your tickets to Japan!

The easiest way s to get there super early (think 6 am ish). Most people are still asleep and you will probably get the best shots without too much hassle.

Let’s say you are not really an early bird type of person, and let’s assume you got there at around midday, on a weekend, during sakura season, and the Queen of england is visiting that day; yeah it’s crowded.


What do you do now?


Well all of the pictures you see here were taken under those conditions (except the Queen visiting, or not, I don’t know her schedule) and as you can see most of them are devoid of people except where I wanted/needed them to be.

It pays to be observant you see?

as soon as you arrive at the Inari station you will walk a few hundred metres towards the entrance of the shrine.

Not quite the red gates but you’ll see a large red gate (called Tori btw) and a temple behind, you can look around here for a bit and take some pictures if you want.

Then comes the good part, the gates. The first set are very large and not as densely packed set of gates, they’re quite beautiful but not what you’re imagining from the pics on the internet.

After you cross that section then you will see 2 paths one going up and one coming down, these are the gates you want.

As you go through the path going up you’ll see hundreds of tourists and it’s virtuall impossible to take a good pic so resist the urge and press on.

Once you’re out on the other side you can continue up towards the summit, but here’s where you can get your pics and which most people won’t do. Turn around and go through the gates back where you came from but the ones going down ( so the entrance right next to were you left)

As most people don’t want to leave as soon as they enter, this path is almost empty except for a few saavy photographers and a couple of people on their way out, however with little patience you can easily get the shots you want here.

As an added tip, the path has a few turns, you can use them to hide the people and make it seem as though it’s empty.

You may need to wait 2-3 min for some tourist to take their picture and be lucky enough not to have anyone walk past during that timeframe. All in all I spent about 45 min on that path trying to capture the best moments, I even managed to sit down and take a picture of me on an empty frame!

I recommend doing this right as you get there because very few people will be leaving so It’s a great opportunity to take the pictures, also at least for me, it allowed me to enjoy the shrine because I knew I had my shots and I could focus on enjoying the place which is incredibly beautiful.

You can just go right back through the path you first went into and go right up, i’tll take you about an hour to reach the summit and it’s completely worth it, the whole trip is amazing, there are thousands of gates littered around the place and at the very top the view of Kyoto is breathtaking.

So there you go, that’s my tip for getting around the tourists at Inari shrine and capturing the postcard pictures you were dreaming of. Here are a few other pics from the shrine which you might enjoy