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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Japan 2013: Kyoto Chapter 1

Arrival


It was a peaceful flight to Osaka (things are always peaceful if one or both of the kids sleep). Thankfully for us, our younger son E took well to the plane ride - he was then slightly less than one year, and and our older son Z was just shy of his third birthday. Fortunately, we also had the company of Sue's sister Andrea, and she helped to provide some of the "entertainment" for the boys. 
Letting sleeping babies lie.

From Osaka Airport, it was another one hour by train to Kyoto, our destination city for the next few days. We decided to let the boys have an afternoon nap as they were exhausted by the time we arrived. Our hotel, the lovely Citadines Kyoto Karusuma-Gojo, was as serene as the photos depicted. The water features at the entrance alone made us feel at home almost all at once.
The boys love the hotel bed or "bouncy bed" as they have
nicknamed it.

Fushimi Inari

After a restful sleep, we began an evening visit to one of the most interesting shrines in Kyoto. Japan is a country steeped in tradition, and you cannot really understand the culture and people unless you visit a shrine. While we're not that big on visiting shrines, we were intending to visit at least one or two, and Fushimi Inari was high on the list. Japan.com describes it in this manner:

Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.

Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital's move to Kyoto in 794.

While the primary reason most foreign visitors come to Fushimi Inari Shrine is to explore the mountain trails, the shrine buildings themselves are also attractive and worth a visit. At the shrine's entrance stands the Romon Gate, which was donated in 1589 by the famous leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Behind stands the shrine's main building (Honden) and various auxiliary buildings.

At the very back of the shrine's main grounds is the entrance to the torii gate covered hiking trail, which starts with two dense, parallel rows of gates called Senbon Torii ("thousands of torii gates"). The torii gates along the entire trail are donations by individuals and companies, and you will find the donator's name and the date of the donation inscribed on the back of each gate. The cost starts around 400,000 yen for a small sized gate and increases to over one million yen for a large gate.
The lovely temple architecture dates back to a time before Kyoto was the capital of Japan.
Along the Senbon Torii Trail.
These little fox-shaped talismans can be found in numerous places around the temple.
It turned dark shortly and we had a quick dinner before returning to our hotel for a good first night's sleep.

Next: The lovely gardens of silvery Ginkakuji.

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