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:
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.
We passed over the Kamo River and the banks reminded me (oddly) a lot of Firenze.
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.
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.
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.
Although we didn’t get to see the rock gardens, we did get to see one of the hedge gardens, which was interesting.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
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.
Stay tuned for part two of our Kyoto trip. There was just too much to see!