Posted by: cyradisnyc | November 28, 2008

What I did yesterday

So, I didn’t post yesterday. A thousand apologies. I wanted to wait until Flickr had uploaded some images, but then it became clear that the Flickr uploader doesn’t like dealing with 200+ images at once. After a few hours of trying it finally told me to f-off.

I went to the South part of Kyoto yesterday, which turned out to be quite a navigational challenge. I wanted to go to Tofuku-ji Temple, Fushimi-Inari Taisha, and To-ji Temple. It turns out that To-ji Temple is nowhere near the other two, so I soon dropped that idea.

It also turns out that when the guidebook advises you to take the subway, you should just take the subway. The map Hwai-ling gave me showed a continuous path, but that is not the case! Clever me, I decided to walk to Tofuku-ji. I did eventually manage to get there, but only because after a lot of wandering, I managed to get myself close enough that I spotted large, roving groups of elderly Japanese tourists. I figured that they were probably headed somewhere notable. (At least then, I figured, I could find it on the map and extrapolate from there where I wanted to go.)

Tofuku-ji is an enormous complex, and I had unwittingly gotten very close. The elderly tourists, eager to gaze at the foliage, lead me straight to it. Tofuku-ji is a zen temple with the oldest zen temple gate left in existence. It was quite impressive just for its own sake, but it is also full of maple leaves. The foliage was pretty amazing. I did have one weird encounter with a Japanese man, who I think was curious about why I chose Tofuku-ji. I chose it because it was an important site, had interesting buildings, and was supposed to be a great place to visit in autumn. After we’d exhausted the 4 or 5 phrases I have learned in Japanese that were applicable here (“I would like to order a beer, please” didn’t really fit), he launched into a discussion of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was the first person to unify Japan. It quickly became apparent that I cannot have an in-depth historical discussion in Japanese. His disbelief kept amplifying, until he finally said something which I think boiled down to, “You do know you are in Kyoto, yes?” I said, “Hai, desu!” He looked exasperated and wandered off. At least I knew who he was talking about, right? I just couldn’t communicate it.

Upon leaving Tofuku-ji, I went south to Fushimi-Inari Taisha, which is so far, my favorite spot on the trip. It is a shinto shrine, dedicated to Inari. According to my guidebook, Inari is the god of rice and sake, but it seems in practice to be a more general sort of prosperity. The shrine is absolutely amazing. It is a 4km long series of orange shinto gates placed closely next to each other that wind up through deep forest to the top of the mountain. I made it almost all the way to the top before I realized that if I wanted to be back anytime before tomorrow morning, I had better turn back soon. As you wind up the path, you come across small clearings that contain smaller, perosnal shrines to the god/goddess. Below is a video of one of those shrine areas. To view my Flickr videos of this, click here and here.

Fushimi-Inari was absolutely amazing, and I was helped to find it by a very nice young lady who was also headed the same direction, who noticed me staring at a map in absolute confusion. Maps of Kyoto have not so much to do with reality, and Japanese addresses do not really help you figure anything out.

I left Fushimi-Inari, and took the subway back. In some ways, I think that was the real accomplishment. The ticket machines have no markings in roman characters, it is all in either chinese characters or kanji. I seem to have it pretty much figured out, though. I had dinner at a little place near the hostel, and had delicious udon with crumbled tempura.

Anyway. More on what I did today is coming shortly. Happy Thanksgiving!

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