On Thursday, March 12, I went to Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto just before lunch to see if I could enjoy a day there without crowds. Fushimi Inari has become one of the most crowded tourist destinations in Kyoto so the thought of a visit off peak season was appealing. I expected crowds to be low because it was a weekday, and also, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fushimi Inari was certainly less crowded than usual, but there were definitely lots of tourists there. I wouldn’t recommend planning a trip anywhere with large crowds while the danger of Corona Virus is an issue, but if you’re already on your way to Japan and committed to going anyway this is what to expect.
I did see a couple of tour groups, including one with a tour guide with a lead flag and everything. The ten plus seemingly western tourists were all wearing the same style mask, which makes me think that the tour company provided them. Otherwise I noticed the usual groups of tourists, with the notable absence of Mandarin-speaking groups.
We arrived at Fushimi Inari station at about 11am, had lunch at a nice western cafe called Vermillion, and then started our way up Mt. Inari. I was with an elementary school kid and we made it to the top at at about 1:15 pm. After a bit of wandering and shopping we were ready to leave and at the train station at about 2:30 pm. So, If you’ve got 3-4 hours you can easily make it to the top of the mountain and back.
If you’re thinking about traveling to Japan sometime soon and are wondering how the Corona Virus (COVID-19) or other local circumstances might affect your trip, I recommend checking out the following websites for information: