Are you the type of person who will do just about anything for the Gram? Do you regularly make insane journeys to picturesque locations simply to snap the perfect selfie? If so, I have the superb spot in mind for you. Known as Koizumi Inari Shrine, this hidden gem can be found smack dab in the middle of nowhere in Gunma Prefecture. Despite its extreme remoteness though, you’ll often see Koizumi Inari Shrine pop up on Instagram. Why would anyone in their right mind venture to this god forsaken scene? Well, put succinctly, this off of the beaten path shrine may very well be one of the most Instaworthy spots in the Greater Tokyo Region!
Anyone keeping tabs on our gang of Japan content creators likely knows, there are endless locals in this country that are as stunning to behold as they are hard to reach. Here, I am talking about spots like Saga Prefecture’s seaside trio of torii gates at Ouo Shrine. Situated along the coast of the Ariake Sea, the trip here is about as logistically complicated as they come. Thanks to the presence of platforms like Instagram though, Ouo Shrine and many others sites across the Japanese countryside are now seeing droves of visitors who would have otherwise never considered such an adventure.
Now, assuming you’re not a resident of Japan, I wouldn’t suggest you set aside half a day of your precious time visiting this country to explore remote locations such as Koizumi Inari Shrine. As with all other installments of Backyard Tourism, my goal in featuring this obscure allure is to highlight how travelers can access remote venues when properly portrayed. Whether it be a bucolic spot like Fukuoka Prefecture’s Akizuki, or an oddity like Koizumi Inari Shrine in no man’s land Gunma, there are infinite opportunities for discovery here in Japan!
How to Get There
For you poor souls, like myself, who will go anywhere to get that Instagram shot, know that the trek to Koizumi Inari Shrine isn’t an easy one. To reach the remote collection of torii gates, you’ll need to first make your way to Takasaki Station up in Gunma Prefecture. This can be done either via the bullet train or the local JR trains if you’re looking to save some coin. In either case, this first leg of the journey is only the beginning. After arriving at Takasaki Station, you’ll need to transfer to the Ryomo Line and take this train all the way to Kunisada Station.
The real fun begins once you reach Kunisada Station. While it looks like there’s a handful of bus departures per day, the best option is to just hoof it all the way over to Koizumi Inari Shrine. All in all, this trek should clock in at approximately forty minutes or so if you walk at a decent clip. The stroll will take you through some of Gunma Prefecture’s rural residential quarters as well as some farmland. All things considered, and assuming you are not paying a visit during the hellish months of summer, this jaunt is a rather pleasant experience.
Of course, the best way to visit Koizumi Inari Shrine is by car. Should you be able and willing to drive, this is an easy way to access the shrine and the remaining Gunma Prefecture. Seeing as there are numerous enchanting attractions within the prefectural border, this would be my recommendation for anyone actually mad enough to venture out to Koizumi Inari Shrine.
Koizumi Inari Shrine’s Torii
When it comes to Koizumi Inari Shrine, there’s not too much I have to tell you in regards to its history. The shrine seems to have some minor regional significance but that is not the reason one comes to this out of the way attraction. Instead, motivation to come to Koizumi Inari Shrine is quite simply its complex maze of vermilion torii arches. These gateways come in a variety of shapes and sizes, giving rise to a unique aesthetic that can only be experienced on site. Koizumi Inari Shrine also boasts a 22 meter-tall torii that is the largest in Gunma. This can be found 800 meters west of the shrine’s grounds denoting the barrier between consecrated and profane territory.
While the twin torii tunnels leading up to Koizumi Inari Shrine’s main hall are indeed picturesque, the most Instagrammable shot can actually be found between them. To get this angle, simply slip between the two pathways and face away from the shrine. If you position yourself just so, you should be faced with the scene pictured above. Assuming you can actually get someone out in this part of the boonies to take your photo, you can get some really great shots for the Gram here. There’s also a number of adorable little fox statues out in back of the main hall that deserve to be snapped as well.
Other Nearby Attractions
As mentioned in the prelude to this article, I actually don’t suggest anyone visit this shrine who isn’t a content creator on the hunt for their next portrait. If you do happen to be insane enough to come all the way out to Koizumi Inari Shrine, you’d be a fool not to at least enjoy some of the other spots in Gunma. The following is a list of prefectural allures that I suggest you also check out, especially if you have access to your own set of wheels and aren’t limited to public transportation.
- Onsen Towns
Gunma Prefecture is home to some truly amazing hot springs. From the famous Kusatsu Onsen, to the picturesque Takaragawa Onsen, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to Gunma Prefecture. Especially if you’re walking all the way to Koizumi Inari Shrine, a good soak might just be what the doctor ordered.
- Takasaki City
This suburban town is the gateway to Gunma. It’s home to a giant statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercy, the Takasaki Byakue Daikannon. The city also lays claim to being known as the country’s top manufacturer of Daruma dolls. In addition to these attractions, Takasaki is also known for its pasta. While this may seem a bit of an oddity at first, know that Gunma Prefecture is one of the biggest wheat producers in all of Japan.
- Gunma’s Three Peaks
Locally, the prefecture is known for its trinity of holy peaks. Known as Mt. Haruna, Mt. Myogi, and Mt. Akagi, each of these crags is home to an ancient sepulcher that will leave you breathless. Due to the mountainous terrain, day trippers to Gunma will likely want to pick only one of these hikes if they are planning to also hit up Koizumi Inari Shrine.
- Mountainous Minakami
If you’re a fan of outdoor and/or adventure tourism, then Minakami needs to be on your list. This slice of Gunma Prefecture is, without a doubt, the best spot in all of Japan for adventure tourism. If you’re a fan of bungee jumping, canyoning, etc. then this is definitely a part of Gunma Prefecture that you need to consider!
- Gunma Safari Park
Though not really my cup of tea, this attraction allows for visitors to come face-to-face with as many as 100 species of animals. At Gunma Safari Park, you’ll encounter elephants, rhinos, lions, white tigers, bears, and giraffes. Since visitors explore the park via buses, all of these critters are free to roam the grounds.
Finally, note that the closest station to Koizumi Inari Shrine, Kunisada Station, is also on the same line as Ashikaga Flower Park. This facility is a celebration of all things floral and is most famous for its springtime wisteria. Should you be visiting in April like I did, these two areas combine well for a great day trip from Tokyo.
Until next time travelers…