My second day off before being back at work tomorrow, I’d made plans with another worker here to hit Kyoto and explore a few sites, the original plan had us trying to visit Toji temple, Fushimi Inari, The Imperial Palace and one other shrine in the area. As it turns out this was quite an ambitious schedule and we opted to drop the later two for the day in order to properly enjoy and see the other two without things being to rushed.
First on the agenda was Toji Temple, the complex contained the pagoda which is the tallest in Japan, also earthquake proof! And Kyoogokuji Kondo, a large temple hall with some really impressive statues in. Sadly you are not allowed to take photos inside, so I can’t show you how spectacular they were. The inside of these temples is just something you have to see, the architecture and woodwork is to beautiful to describe!!!
Arriving at the Toji area we first explored a few smaller temple halls, again weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but there were a lot of cool artifacts inside, just starring up at the celling revealed incredible woodwork. Sadly again not allowed to take pictures there, so just believe me, or better still see them for yourself.
The pagoda of Toji was really cool, it doesn’t look very tall at first, but when you get closer you realise what a magnificent structure it is. The pagoda has a realy amazing garden surrounding it, with a large pond full of Koi fish. There were a lot of nice trees around, including some Sakura starting to bloom. Which is a great sign for me as locals have told me I should start to see them, and this is further confirmation I’m likely to see the full bloom start to happen.
While admiring the temple pagoda a old Japanese lady who had a stall nearby kindly brought us over some form of drink, possibly plum tea. It was really nice of her and it was relaxing just drinking tea in a peaceful temple garden while looking up at the pagoda.
With the Toji area explored we set off to Fushimi Inari, being that we had the time we decided to walk the 3.5km across Kyoto rather than take a bus or train. It was a really good choice as we got to see a lot of the city, including a lot of regular parts of the city away from the usual tourist areas. Even some fun small Japanese side streets and residential zones. Halfway we found a really good coffee shop which had amazing coffee, it was a good short break to just sit and watch the city go by.
Toward the Eastern edge of the city we crossed the Kamo river, it was such a cool sight to see. From the bridges you could see a great mix of buildings with the magnificent mountain backdrop.
As we neared the end of the journey to Inari we found ourselves walking down a really cool Japanese street, it was a small district of the city that seemed to be made of traditional house and stores, it was a picture of everyday life in Japan. Upon arriving at the small area just before Fushimi Inari it was noticeable how many more tourists there were, though again very few were foreigners.
The initial area around the shrine was packed full of people looking around, there was a narrow street leading to the main shrine, this was lined either side with lots of food vendors and stalls. There was so much food all being cooked fresh at the stalls, the smell and sight was out of this world!
The street then opened up into the main shrine area at the base of the mountain, this was made of a larger building with lots of smaller shrines and torii gates around, again bustling with people, a lot of kimonos. There were also a lot of shrine maidens around in traditional dress, a really awesome sight.
After exploring the base of the temple we set off up the mountain through the first set of torii (the red gates), apparently there are around 10,000 of these here!! They are all set close together and form a tunnel along a path up the mountain. They feel really smooth and have writing etched into the back of each one.
The tunnels of torii are like nothing eles, again this is something you just have to see for yourself!
The first section didn’t take long to finish, and ended in an opening with more shrines. I found a fox wish shrine, so once again decided to buy a token to draw my fox face on and make a wish to my friend.
After that it was a case of pushing on up the mountain further through more torii. At the next section we were met with a large lake, possibly man made. Further up still we came across a break area with some drinks and a amazing view over the Kyoto skyline.
About halfway up we took a small pathway that led off, this led to an area packed with smaller shrines. It was like a maze of stone, it felt like something from a game or film.
Along the way there were lots of amazing things to see from shrines to small water feature areas, I believe for hand washing or drinking maybe. Not being certain which I decided not to use them incase I got it wrong.
Once we finally reached the summit after continuing through the torii tunnels, there was a reasonably large shrine with some rock formations, there was a que of people lining up to pay their respects at the shrine, I joined and did the same. There was only a handful or people up here, as I don’t think many people committed to going to the top, their loss!
Descending the mountain we noticed a small dirt trail leading off, so we decided to explore and see where this led. Turns out it was another great choice as it led us through some forests, packed with regular trees as well as bamboo forests. If anything more bamboo than in the bamboo grove!
The trail was winding down the mountain on quite a steep slope, but then eased out as we neared the end. There was no one on this trail and it felt like a hidden gem, the walk was a fantastic detour.
Eventually the trail led us back out near the entrance to Fushima Inari where we started. With the lowering sun it was once again time to call it a day, we walked back into Kyoto to locate some cheap food before heading back. It wasn’t long before we found a ramen shop providing massive bowls for as little as 480 yen! The food was needless to say delicious!