Warning: Another picture-heavy post. Sorry!

On the last day of Silver Week, (a 5-day string of days off), I went to Kyoto. I had planned this in advance, mentioning it to some classmates. Two in particular were interested in coming with me: Lisa and Tom. Tom was particularly familiar with the train lines in this region, and his Japanese is far better than mine, so he was essentially our guide.

We met at nearby Hirakata Station and took the trains up to Tofuku-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple created by a renowned designer of gardens. We walked a bit from the station, and at some points I was afraid we were lost, but we found the temple fairly easily. It was at this point that, to my dismay, I realized I had left the memory chip for my camera in my computer. So most of the pictures here were taken by Tom, but he allowed me to take some pictures. Most of the exterior compound was free, but to get into the gardens we had to pay a decent amount of money. In the end, though, I think it was worth it.

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The old entrance gate, one of the largest, according to the plaque.

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A lovely sand garden. These stone had holes in the top, and people had thrown in coins, trying to get them in the holes. Coins were stuck throughout the dirt.

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Another gorgeous, peaceful zen garden. The guy really was a master, like the brochures say.

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The zen master also had a fondness for patterns:

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Little shrines in one of the gardens.

 

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A channel for a brook.

 

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That’s Tom on the left and Lisa on the right. This bridge floated above the treetops.IMG_0326

Lisa and I.

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Random shrines viewed through the trees.

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The next large zen garden.

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Random sheep on a door.

 

IMG_0343 Bamboo Forest.

From Tofuku-ji we walked to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is a popular tourist attraction and is well known for being depicted in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. Since the shrine is an Inari shrine, it is dedicated to the gods of wealth and prosperity. As a result, businesses have built torii gates around the compound – lots of them. They stretch through the forest up to the top of the nearby mountain. The place is magical – walking through gate after gate. Walking up stairs all the way proved to be a challenge, particularly since my two traveling partners were far more fit. It was very humid, and everyone going up was very sweaty. I had to stop near the top, and let the others go on. I knew from what others told me there wasn’t a view. As I waited, a scrawny cat came and sat next to me, licking himself. This attracted the attention of other Japanese tourists. The cat was obviously very hungry and begging for food – I wished I had some to give him. My two partners returned and it turned out they went in circles trying to find the top.

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Here, let me read this for you with my awesome Japanese-reading skills. It says: “Fushimi Inari”.

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Foxes are traditional animals to be seen at Inari shrines.

IMG_0347 Entrance to the Torii Shrines.

 

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Gorgeous, aren’t they?

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The torii gates as seen from the outside.

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Steps up the mountain. There were stops and shrines along the way.

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One of the best views we got.

 

We went back down the mountain together, and got back on the train, subsequently travelling to find a place where we could eat. Settling on a traditional restaurant, I ordered what was essentially Japanese fried chicken, miso soup, and rice. It was very tasty – the chicken came with a spicy mayonnaise-like sauce that brought out the flavor of the chicken. Then we headed home. Since Lisa is a homestay student, we parted ways at Makino Station, which turns out to be closer to our dorm. I couldn’t get you there yet from here, but it was a nice conclusion to the day.

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