Japan: Little bit more of Kyoto

28-29 November 2014

It is easy to forget how big Kyoto is and how many places of interest there are.  Fushimi Inari (god of rice) Taisha shrine at the base of Mt Inari caught my eyes. The walk up the mountain leads you to many smaller shrines. The main shrine structure was built in 1499. The fox statues that greets visitors at the main gate reflects how the fox (like the deer in Nara) are seen as messengers. The fox with the rice granary in their mouths indicates that you are visiting an Inari shrine.

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It is unfair how the good-tempered fox is seen as a cunning and sly animal or a home wrecker (Chinese culture). They are smart animals and make great pets (if only I have one). The fox spirits at Inari have great supernatural significance and entire shrines are dedicated to them. I saw an old man praying at a shrine filled with fox statues and then he placed a dish of fried tofu. He saw me, smiled and pointed to the fox statues. He laughed and said “Kitsune”- a very unique and healthy offering.

SONY DSCThe foxes are all white which is a good omen. Like the Golden Pavilion, they have the power to ward off evil. They are also guardian spirits. According to beliefs, fox statues are able to dispel negative energy which is why the Fushimi Inari Shrine is scattered with them. 

It felt good entering and leaving the Shrine through the vermilion torii gates. A very mystical place.

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Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is on the list of “Places to see before you die.” CNN- you overrate things! It’s only a bamboo forest in the middle of a cute neighbourhood on the Western outskirts of Kyoto. It makes a nice relaxing stroll. I only stayed for a half a day since I was more interested in Ginkakuji Temple.

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A Zen temple, it was established in 1482. It is popularly known the “Silver Pavilion”  since the initial plan was to cover the exterior in silver foil. The Onin War halted all constructions and the plan to make it a silver temple never became a reality.

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It was built to serve as a place of rest for the Shogun- a calming place to think while calamity continues outside the temple grounds.

SONY DSCThe garden with a big pile of sand is said to symbolise Mt Fuji and like many shrines and temples in Kyoto, the outside perimeter consists of quirky shops, tea houses and other bits n’pieces- all worth a look. 

I really like the clip showing the passing train- notice the two men? In neat uniforms, they waved and bowed to the approaching train. A very common and small detail reflects what the social atmosphere is like in a country.  Unfortunately, this is something that my old country- China will never achieve…at least not in my lifetime.