The Land of the Rising Sun – Kyoto Part One

Bobby and I booked a hotel in Kyoto for five days, but made it six when we accidentally left Tokyo by train a day early.  I must say in all our hotel stays, that was a first. Luckily, our “sold out” hotel had an opening for the additional night (for 150% the cost, of course), so we didn’t have to search out somewhere new to stay.  Six days may seem like a lot of time in one city, but Kyoto was a good one to have a little breathing room. I think you could stay in Kyoto for three months and not see all the temples in the city.  There really are *that* many.

Our first day was grey and a bit drizzly, but we took a walk over to the east side of Kyoto, hitting Yasaka Shrine, Tofukuji Temple and attempted to make it down to the famed Fushimi Inari gates.

On our way to Yasaka, our first stop, we bumped in and out of a bunch of shops and saw this really cute restaurant:

Hilarious storefront

Hilarious storefront

Dolls hanging from the entrance

Dolls hanging from the entrance

The restaurant specialized in a savory pancake, which looked absolutely delicious.  Unfortunately, there was a line and we weren’t sure Stella would deal with the wait, so we pressed on.

Looks yummy!

Looks yummy!

The savory pancake

The savory pancake

Really cute signs out front. I have no clue what they say.

Really cute signs out front. I have no clue what they say. :)

In a nook next to the restaurant, they had all of these little cartoon-like hangings

In a nook next to the restaurant, they had all of these little cartoon-like hangings

Again, I'm not sure what they say, but the artwork was funny.

Again, I’m not sure what they say, but the artwork was funny.

We passed over the Kamo River and the banks reminded me (oddly) a lot of Firenze.

Kamo River

Kamo River

The original Yasaka Shrine is a Shinto shrine that dates back to 656.  Even though it’s not the same structure, it is still famous in Kyoto for 2 things: hosting the annual Gion Festival (where the Japanese people practice purification rituals to ward off epidemics like the plague of the past) and is a main attraction during Japanese New Year celebrations.

Entrance to the Yasaka Shrine

Entrance to the Yasaka Shrine

Markers along the path

Markers along the path (I’m guessing they might be lamps at night?)

The "stage"

The “stage”

Close up of the lanterns

Close up of the lanterns

Young girls in traditional dress

Young girls in traditional dress

Outside of many temples in Japan, there are places to leave written prayers.  In some places, you write them on wooden boards, in others you write them on little strips of paper and one even had these brightly colored fabric balls.

Colorful prayer chains

Colorful prayer chains

:)

I kind of loved it.

Tofukuji Temple is incredibly popular in autumn because of its surrounding landscape.  The trees turn all shades of red, orange and yellow, making for a photographer’s dream.  It is a zen garden, with several raked rock gardens surrounding the structures, but unfortunately that part of the temple grounds was closed.  We had to settle for just the fall color explosion.

Stella says "we have to pay to get in?" At least it's cool money.

Stella says “we have to pay to get in?” At least it’s cool money and we got a great view.

Colors of Tofukuji Temple

Colors of Tofukuji Temple

Although the trees had lost some leaves, many were still full

Although the trees had lost some leaves, many were still full

My favorite shot at twilight

My favorite shot as the sun was setting. The colors were unreal!

Stella cooperated for one photo

Stella cooperated for one photo on the bridge

But wasn't too happy when mom jumped in...

But wasn’t too happy when mom jumped in…

Ahhh, this is why fall is my favorite season!

Ahhh, this is why fall is my favorite season!

Although we didn’t get to see the rock gardens, we did get to see one of the hedge gardens, which was interesting.

This looks like a lot of work to groom

This looks like a lot of work to groom

Leaving the temple, luckily Stella settled down just in time for another photo op with some tourists.  These Japanese women wanted a photo with our little one, which was awesome because I wanted a photo of their colorful kimonos!

Beautiful kimonos

Beautiful kimonos

After all the walking we did, we arrived at the Fushimi Inari gates at dusk.  The gates are very beautiful at night, but difficult to photograph without a tripod, so after fumbling around and only getting a couple shots, we decided to return the following morning. (The second time we took the train though!)

Entrance to the Fushimi Inari gates

Entrance to the Fushimi Inari gates at sunset

We did take a second for a selfie :)

We did take a second for a selfie :)

Climbing the stairs to the start of the gates

Climbing the stairs to the start of the gates. That was fun with a stroller!

Pretty amazing Shinto shrine

Pretty amazing Shinto shrine

The Bean was less than impressed

The Bean was less than impressed

My only decent night shot :/

My only decent night shot :/

The Fushimi Inari shrine is one of, if not the most, popular tourist / religious site in all of Japan.  I’m sure you’ve seen it in photographs, in National Geographic or online.  It’s famous for its thousands of torii gates which span pathways leading up to sacred Mount Inari.  With origins that date back to 794, 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.

Map of the many gates following the path up the mountain

Map of the many gates following the path up the mountain

Entrance to the shrine. It was REALLY crowded

Entrance to the shrine the next morning. It was REALLY crowded.

It's pretty stunning

Hurry up!  Photograph it while no one is coming!

Bobby and the Bean

Bobby and the Bean

The torii gates from outside of the path

The torii gates from outside of the path

You can capture some pretty crazy angles

You can capture some pretty crazy angles

Peaking out of the gates

Peaking out of the gates

The second day, we were smarter and came with the carrier instead of the stroller. Too many people!

On the second day, we were smarter and came with the carrier instead of the stroller. Too many people and steps!

Just outside of the main grounds and on a road leading back down the hill, is a series of food stands that served lots o’ meat on a stick (among other things).  We tried a couple of the offerings and it was all rather tasty.

Pork and peppers

Lots and lots of pork

Octopus anyone?

Octopus anyone?

Rice balls covered in some kind of paste

Rice balls covered in some kind of paste

Yummm, meat!

Yummm, pancetta!

Sweet potato fries!

Sweet potato fries!

Although we did take the train there, we walked a majority of the way back, so we got to see Stella’s varying stages of sleep and carrier positions.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Woke up a little out of it

Woke up a little out of it

Got happy just in time to catch the train

Got happy just in time to catch the train

Whaddaya lookin' at?

Whaddaya lookin’ at?

Stay tuned for part two of our Kyoto trip.  There was just too much to see!

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