Saturday, July 13, 2013

Japan 2013: Fushimi Inari Taisha

We were up pretty early this morning- sleeping on the floor on futons is not the most comfortable for our western bodies :) Plus I have to get my blog post up before the day really gets started. Luckily Aoi-chan is also an  early-riser, so we got together in their room for breakfast together around 7:00 am. She happily bopped around the room, occasionally eating, as we ate the yummies we bought at the supermarket & chatted. 

Charlie read Pat the Bunny to Aoi during breakfast

Momo & I have been talking for months about visiting the Fushimi Inari Taisha, so we decided to take the train to the  today to do just that. Fushimi Inari is a wonderful shrine located about halfway between Kyoto & Uji, whihc is consdiered to be the main shrine for the more than 40,000 Inari shrines in Japan. Fushimi Inari was built in the 8th century & all Inari Shrines are dedicated to the gods of rice, harvest, & commerce. The messengers of these gods are called kitsune, the Japanese word for fox, & there are many protective fox statues scattered around the grounds of this huge shrine complex. One of the main features of this shrine is a 4 km. pathway made of torii gates (the orange gates at the entrance to shrines). Each gate was donated as a prayer for success in business or for a successful harvest & they date back hundreds of years, right to the present. In fact we saw someone putting the finishing touches on a brand new gate today.

The train ride took about 20 minutes, after about the same amount of time walking to Uji Station. It was another hot day- high 90‘s & high humidity, but there were rotating fans on the ceiling of the train that really helped. 

The station is right across the street from the entrance to the shrine. There’s a very impressive lane leading up to the first shrine building. The orange & gold decorating the buildings makes them positively glow. 

Aoi-chan really just wanted to play with the rocks...

After buying some omamori, we decided to make a start at walking the torii gate path. 
Most of the omamori featured foxes- the torii gate one is a magnet for your car, for safe driving

Charlie, Brendan & I had visited here 4 years ago but didn’t go very far down the path, so we were keen to see more of it. The entrance was mobbed, but the people cleared-out the farther we walked. 

It wasn’t solid pathway- occasionally you’d come out into an area with more little shrines & even places to buy more omamori. There were also places with stairs & little pathways leading to a bamboo forest or side shrines. 

this man is painting the date on a newly-placed torii gate

Charlie & Brendan got tired of the bugs before the rest of us were ready to stop, so they went back to some of the shops by the main entrance & had some kakigori (shaved ice) while we kept going. Finally, we came to a very steep stair that didn’t look very stroller-friendly, so we backtracked to a side path that was a shortcut to the main entrance. 

Once we all met up again, we went in search of lunch. One of the most popular foods at this shrine are inarizushi- triangles of aburage (fried & sweetened tofu) stuffed with sushi rice. The kitsune’s favourite food is aburage, so it’s a natural to have inarizushi here :) So we did. 

the coke cans were so petite :)

I had futomaki sushi mine. It was delicious! Aoi-chan had fallen asleep in the stroller on the way back through the torii gate path, so she just got parked to one side in the restaurant while her parents ate unencumbered by genki child :)

After lunch we bought omiyage (gifts for friends at home) & sweets to share in the afternoon, then headed back to the train station. We caught a train almost immediately- lucky! The sky was threatening rain by the time we were walking back to the ryokan, but we got there before the thunder storm hit & the skies opened up.

We all rested in our separate rooms for about an hour, then we got together for snacks & tea. It rained really hard all afternoon, so we played Uno & kept Aoi-chan out of trouble while we waited for the rain to let  up. 

Finally, we just got out the umbrellas & walked in search of dinner. There was a big conference in town- right next to the ryokan in fact, which caused a huge influx of visitors & meant we had to go pretty far before finding a place that wasn’t packed with people. Just by luck though, we found a little Italian place with no-one there, so we ordered 5 different pizza & pasta dishes & shared them all- yum!! The weather cleared-up considerably while we were eating, so the walk back to the ryokan was very pleasant. The rain had cooled things down & everything smelled fresh & clean.

After we got back, Charlie & Hiroshi-kun made plans to go use the public ofuro (bath) at the ryokan together. This was Charlie’s first time using a public bath in Japan. And did I take a picture of him in his yukata (cotton kimono)? No! I forgot :(  But he had a nice time- although he said the bath was really, really warm (most ofuro are volcanically heated water). 

Fingers crossed that the weather stays clear for tomorrow’s adventures! I have to buy tea!!!

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