ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Shrine

DAY 1: SULE PAGODA, Yangon, Myanmar

After lunch at 999 Shan Noodle House, we walked over to the City Hall.  Across the street from the City Hall stood Sule Pagoda, the iconic octagonal stupa that marked the heart of Yangon.  We decided to pay a quick visit to this wonderful monument before venturing further south.

Built in the 5th century BC, the 2600 year old was said to even predate the famous Shwedagon.  The stupa was built in the style of Mon pagoda architecture, back in the era when the Mon people was a dominant ethnic group in the region.  The Mon people was also responsible for spreading Theravada Buddhism throughout Southeast Asia.  The Mon name of Sule Pagoda is “kyaik athok ceti”, meaning “stupa with a sacred hair enshrined”.  Legend has it that the Sule Pagoda contains one of Buddha’s hairs given to merchant Tapussa and Bhallika.  The rest of the same strand of Buddha’s hairs were said to be kept at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Before the British set out to develop Yangon and its port area, Sule Pagoda was situated on an island surrounded by a swamp at the banks of Yangon River.  The British drained the area, constructed a prominent roundabout centred at the Pagoda and defined Sule as the heart of Downtown Rangoon (now Yangon).  Today, Sule pagoda remains as an iconic spot of the city, and has served as the centre stage of civilian rallies and demonstrations throughout the years.

DSC_2641We crossed the street from the City Hall to the east entrance of the Sule Pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the entrance, we followed the rules and took off our shoes and socks, left them with one of the staff, purchased admission tickets and then climbed up the stairs to the main worshiping area.  This was our first experience of walking barefoot in Myanmar.

DSC_2653The first thing we saw beyond the stair was a cosy and golden altar with many pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of the covered altar was a series of small golden shrine surrounding the base of the octagonal pagoda.  It’s important for the Burmese to know which day of the week they were born in order to find the right shrine to worship.   There are eight planetary shrines around the pagoda, each represents a planet as well as a particular day of the week, with Wednesday split into two (am and pm).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWater and food can be found at the pagoda complex, usually donated by Buddhist worshipers, who believe good deeds are one of the basis for path of enlightenment.

DSC_2678Soon we reached another entrance of the Sule Pagoda.  Entrances of the pagoda are arranged at the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west.

DSC_2680The corresponded altar of this entrance looked somewhat different than the one we first arrived at.

DSC_2685Like all shrines in Myanmar, gold is the single dominant colour of the octagonal Sule Pagoda.

DSC_2693At the Saturday shrine, another two worshipers were busy performing rituals and cleaning the altar with water.

DSC_2695Under the scorching sun, many worshipers stayed at the shaded area to mediate.  It was interesting to see many young people were among the devoted worshipers.

DSC_2699When looking closely, the fine details and craftsmanship of the golden ornaments were overwhelmingly impressive.

DSC_2700.JPGAt another entrance altar, colourful fresco depicted a number of Buddhist stories high up near the ceiling.

DSC_2706Each of the four altars has a distinct set of ornaments.

DSC_2711Other than the devoted worshippers, some locals were just hanging around in the pagoda area as if the space was a public park.  In fact, Buddhist shrines in Myanmar do serve as community spaces that welcome everyone.

DSC_2712It was relaxing to walk on bare feet around the Sule Pagoda.  Surprising we didn’t feel uncomfortable without our shoes and socks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the entrance where we arrived, there was a group of people gathered at a pulley wire, waiting for the staff to send their prayer cards up to the pagoda by the golden prayer boat.

DSC_2714Via a wire pulley system, the golden prayer boat sends prayer cards of worshippers up to the pagoda.

DSC_2717A staff at the base worked the pulley to send up the prayer boat while a group of worshipers gathered to witness the process.

DSC_2739After one loop, we repeated the clockwise stroll around the Sule Pagoda for a second time.

DSC_2743After two loops around the pagoda, we walked down the stair where we first arrived, put on our shoes, and moved on to further explore Downtown Yangon.

 

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MEIJI JINGU (明治神宮), Harajuku (原宿), Tokyo

The sky was grey on our last day in Tokyo.  We decided to spend the morning at nearby Harajuku (原宿).  We moved our suitcase and backpack to the lockers in Shibuya Station (渋谷), and then took the JR Yamanote Line (山手線) one stop over to Harajuku.  Despite we had been to Harajuku a few times, we had never ventured beyond the shopping and entertainment areas.  This time, we decided to spend a peaceful morning at Meiji Jingu (明治神宮), the Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the insightful leader who modernized Japan at the end of the 19th century.  Built in 1920, the original shrine complex was destroyed during World War Two.  The shrine was rebuilt soon after the war.  We had seen photographs of the large and lovely torii gates at the forested path of Meiji Shrine.  It was interesting to see such massive and traditional wooden structures surrounded by mature trees at the heart of Tokyo, just a stone throw away from all the neon lights of youthful Takeshita Street (竹下通り) and fashionable Omotesandō (表参道).  While we were there, some buildings were under renovations for its 100th anniversary in 2020.  We took our time to walk around the compound, wrote down our wishes on an ema (wooden plate to hang at the shrine), and enjoyed a peaceful walk in the urban forest.

Before heading back to Shibuya for the Narita Express, we dropped by the roof garden of Tokyu Plaza for breakfast.  Most shops had yet opened their doors in Harajuku, and we had another quiet moment in an urban oasis.  By the time we returned to Shibuya to pick up our luggage, it finally started to rain.  The rain lasted for the entire afternoon.  It was still raining heavily when our plane took off at the runway of Narita later that day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are a few locker areas at Shibuya Station.  We almost went to a wrong locker area to pick up our luggage.  Luckily, when we left our luggage we took a photo of the locker area to remind ourselves, and that proved handy at the end.

02The timber structure of Harajuku Station is unique in Tokyo.  Hopefully this historical building can survive the massive redevelopment of the area prior to the Olympic Games.

03We loved the massive torii gate of Meiji Jingu.  The natural finish matches perfectly with the surrounding forest.

04Sake offering at the Meiji Jingu.

06The second large torii gate midway into the path of Meiji Jingu.

07Quite a number of buildings at Meiji Jingu were under renovation for 2020.

08There were a lot of visitors at the early hours of the day.

09The natural appearance of a Japanese timber structure offers the best harmony with the surrounding nature.

10Writing the Ema (wooden prayer plates) is always fun.

11After hanging our ema, we bid farewell to the peaceful Meiji Jingu.

01Time was still early when we walked to Tokyu Plaza.  Since the shopping centre had yet opened its doors, we found our way up to the roof garden via an elevator at the side.

02The roof garden of Tokyu Plaza is always a great place to hang out.  While some were having breakfast like us, there were a few dozing off at the far corners.

03Not many visitors were around.  We could admire the interesting design of the decking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking down to the intersection of Omotesando and Meiji Jingumae, the popular crossing were almost empty of pedestrians.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rain hadn’t arrived yet, and we had a relaxing breakfast at the roof garden.

 


TAKINO’O PATH & SACRED BRIDGE, Nikko (日光), Japan

Every visitor who comes to Nikko would be impressed by the century-old cedar forests surrounding the shrines and temples.  What looks like a natural forest is in fact partially orchestrated by people 400 years ago, creating what we now called the Cedar Avenue of Nikko (日光杉並木), a 35.41km tree-lined path with 13,000 Japanese Red Cedar. The Cryptomeria tree (Sugi), also known as Japanese Red Cedar, is the national tree of Japan.  We didn’t walk the Cedar Avenue of Nikko, the world’s longest tree lined avenue in Nikko, but instead, had our own close encounter with the magnificent cedar trees in a along the Takino’o Path.  We came across the Takino’o Path from online research.  For about an hour, the trail led us through its tranquil cedar forest and peaceful Shinto shrines.   We began our journey from the Futarasan Shrine, passed by the Takino Shrine (瀧尾神社) and ended at the Sacred Bridge of Nikko, the Shinkyo (神橋).

01The trail head of Takino Path was right beside the forecourt of Futarasan Shrine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail passed by the the Taiyuin and Futarasan Shrine.

03A few minutes later, we arrived at a small shrine by the path.  It reminded us of Kumano Kodo, where we enjoyed a few days of hiking on the Kii Mountains of Kansai.

04For a very long day hike, some visitors would climb the Mount Nyoho (女峰山, 2,465m).

05The cedar forest soon got denser.

06Along the trail, we could closely the centuries old Japanese Cedar.

12Along the way, many old cedar trees were very photogenic.

07After the crowded and relatively noisy experience at the Toshogu Shrine, only five minutes into the trail brought us to a completely opposite world of tranquility and lush green.

08After about half an hour of leisure walking, we were soon approaching the Takino’o Shrine (瀧尾神社) in the forest.

09After walking up the hill of Takino’o Shrine (瀧尾神社), we passed by a number of atmospheric small shrines.

DSC_7881Kaji Sadayoshi, a supporter of Tokugawa Iemitsu, built the Undameshi No Tori (運試しの鳥居).  Like many visitors, we tested our luck by throwing a pebble through the hole between the two horizontal members of the tori gate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACertain parts of the trail were covered with historical paving stones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Kodane Stone (子種石) behind an old tori gate near the Takino’o Shrine is believed to have the power of child birth.

13On our way back out of the forest towards Shinkyo (神橋), we passed by Kannon Do Shrine, the Shrine of Safe and Easy Delivery of Child or Kyosha-do (香車堂).

14After a little over half an hour, we returned to the main entrance of the World Heritage Shrine and Temple Park.

15Across the street from the UNESCO World Heritage plaque, we finally reached the Shinkyo (神橋), the Sacred Bridge of Nikko.

16We didn’t pay the admission fee to walk onto the Shinkyo (神橋).  We walked over to the nearby bus stop for a ride to Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖).  Beside the bus stop there was an interesting telephone booth made of a recycled gondola.

 


TOSHOGU SHRINE (東照宮), Nikko (日光), Japan

140km north of Tokyo, Nikko (日光) is one of the most popular excursion destination out of the Japanese capital.  Dotted with onsen villages, ancient cedar forests, scenic waterfalls, turquoise lakes and lush green mountains, the magnificent piece of landscape is also the final resting place of Tokugawa Iayasu (徳川家康), the founding shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate from 1600 until Meiji Restoration in 1868.  The Shinto mausoleums of Tokugawa Iayasu and his grandson Tokugawa Iemitsu (徳川家光) in Nikko are part of  “Shrines and Temples of Nikkō” inscribed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage in 1999.  These historical sites draw huge crowds of visitors daily to the otherwise sleepy hilltown of Nikko.

There were so much to do and see in Nikko but we could only do a very long day trip this time.  We booked the earliest direct train, Tobu Railway’s Revaty Limited Express leaving Tokyo’s Asakusa Station at 06:30, and the last return train leaving Nikko at 19:18, leaving us about 11 hours in Nikko.  We also got the Nikko All Area Pass,  which covered our local bus fares in the Nikko and Chuzenji Lake area and discount on the Tobu train tickets.  We planned to check out the shrines and temples in the morning, and then visit the scenic Chuzenji Lake (中禅寺湖) and Kegon no taki (華厳の滝, Kegon Waterfall) in the afternoon.  As soon as the Revaty train pulled into Nikko Station at around 08:20, we were excited to see the beautiful weather.

01Our journey to Nikko began from Tobu Asakusa Station (浅草駅), a monumental terminal building constructed in 1931.

02In order to take the 6:30 Revaty Limited Express, we had no choice but to get up early and left Shibuya at about 5:30.

03The train arrived in Nikko at around 08:20.  We hopped onto a Tobu bus in front of Nikko Station for the nearby temple and shrine area.  Attempting to avoid the crowds later in the day, we decided to first visit Toshogu Shrine (東照宮), the single most popular attraction in Nikko.

04Toshogu Shrine is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for 250 years until Meiji Restoration in 1867.  Because of its historical significance, the shrine is highly popular among local Japanese.  After a short walk along the procession route, we entered through Ishidorii (Stone Torii Gate), a beautiful timber gateway erected by the powerful feudal lord Kuroda Nagamasa, into the shrine complex.

05Despite our early arrival, the Toshogu Shrine was already full of student groups and tourists.  We passed by a group of students below the Gojunoto (Five-Story Pagoda) as we entered the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe entered the central complex through Omotemon Gate (Front Gate) or Nio Gate that is guarded by a pair of Nio (仁王) guardians.

07Once entered the forecourt, we could already appreciate the meticulous relief carvings and vivid architecture features on the Sanjinko (Three Sacred Storehouses).  Toshogu presents quite a contrast compared with most other Shinto shrines that are usually minimalist in design and natural in colour tones.

09At the forecourt, the Shinkyu-Sha, the sacred horse stable, houses a real horse.  This comes from the tradition made by early emperors who would donate to the Kibune Shrine in Kyoto either a white horse to stop the rain in a rainy year, or a black horse to welcome the rain in a dry year.

08The front facade of the Shinkyu-Sha, the sacred horse stable, featues the Sanzaru (Three Wise Monkeys) on eight frieze panels depicting ordinary lives of people.  The most famous panel is undoubtedly the adorable “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond a large tori and a flight of steps is the Yomeimon Gate (陽明門), the gate of setting sunlight.

11With 500 beautiful wooden carvings, the Yomeimon Gate (陽明門) is considered by many the most impressive gate in Japan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe impressive Yomeimon Gate represents the Main Gate of the Imperial Court in the entire complex.

13As far as the legend goes, Yomeimon Gate is also called the “Gate of the Setting Sun” because visitor can gaze upon it all day without getting tired.

14Impressive decorations at the gate includes a golden lion housed in a niche.

15And a lot more that depict anecdotes, legends, wise people, sages, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother famous feature at Toshogu is Nemurineko, the tiny carving of the sleeping cat on the beam of a hallway.  A work by master carver Hidari Jingorou, the napping cat under the warm sun is a depiction “Nikko”, which literally means “sunlight”.  It marks the entry point of the path that ultimately leads to the final resting place of Tokugawa Iayasu (徳川家康) on the hill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATaking the earliest direct train from Tokyo and came to Toshogu immediately upon arrival, we thought we could enjoy a bit of peaceful time at the highly popular shrine before the tourist groups came.  That totally didn’t happen as the shrine was already full of student groups when we arrived.  Walking up to visit the mausoleum of Tokugawa Iayasu (徳川家康) was not a peaceful journey at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust a few minutes of short walk led us to the hill platform of the mausoleum.  Compared to the shrine buildings downhill, the mausoleum carries a more harmonic relationship with the natural surroundings.

19The bronze urn on the hill contains the remains of Tokugawa Iayasu (徳川家康), the most powerful shogun of Japan before the modern era.

22The calligraphic sign Tōshō Dai-Gongen (東照大権現) near the mausoleum is attributed to Emperor Go-Mizunoo (後水尾天皇) from the 17th century.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe curved archway of Karamon Gate (唐門) symbolizes the authority of the Gohonsha Main Shrine Hall behind.  Despite the renovation scaffolding, we were able to enter the hall as a group to have a peek of the space where events and festivals would be held annually.


DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

After we came back from Fushimi Inari Taisha, we thought it would be a good idea to find a place for lunch in Downtown Kyoto.  There was still a few hours before our 18:30 flight.

06We opted for a revisit of Nishiki Market (錦市場), the five block long market street known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”.

04For the past few days we didn’t really have a decent meal of sashimi.  We ended up sitting down at a sashimi restaurant Nishiki Daimaru Yoshi (錦大丸).  The restaurant was hidden behind its fishmonger shop.

01At this popular restaurant, we were the first customers sitting down at the long counter in front of the food preparation area.

02There was only set lunch available.  We wouldn’t mind as long as the sashimi was fresh.  The set included sashimi, tempura and grilled fish.

03The washroom at the restaurant was small but full of character.

07After lunch, we went outside of the Nishiki Market and arrived at the back side of Daimaru Department Store.  There was a small vendor selling farmer’s produce.  We couldn’t resist but bought a few items to bring back to Hong Kong.

05Then we headed back into Nishiki Market for another stroll.

08We passed by a vendor selling all kinds of traditional sweets and snacks.  We picked up some regional roasted peanuts.

09There were quite a few shops selling Tsukemono (漬物, Japanese pickled snacks).  Many items were seasonal.

10Then we passed by the chestnut shop where we bought some delicious local chestnuts before.

11At the end of Nishiki Market, we arrived at the entrance of Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine, a Shinto shrine conveniently located at the heart of the downtown.

12Another shop worth noting in the area was Tamaru Inbo (田丸印房), a Hanko shop, a store selling traditional stamps and seals made of wooden or stone blocks.  With over a century of professional reputation, Tamaru Inbo was a great place to check out Japanese hanko.

13From Shijo Dori, we walked east to the Kamo River (鴨川).   We decided to walk south along the river for a final stroll along the peaceful river.

14The weather was perfect for a relaxing stroll.

15Like us, many preferred to take the route along the river instead of the city streets.

16We passed by many restaurants facing the river.  Hopefully next time we would be able to enjoy a meal at one of the many waterfront dining patios during the summer months.

17We left the riverbank when we reached Gojo Dori Street.  We decided to get a good cup of coffee before leaving for the airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe landed on a cafe called Efish just south of Gojo Dori, at Kiya-machi Dori, a small neighborhood street sandwiched between the Kamo River and Takase River (高瀬川).  Unlike several blocks up north where Kiya-machi Dori represented the vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene of the city, here the narrow street became a laid-back neighborhood alley.

19Efish is great for its relaxing atmosphere by the river.  Other than refreshing food and drinks, Efish also showcased cool design housewares inside the cafe.

20On our way from Efish to Kyoto Station, we walked past Umeyu Rakuen (サウナの梅湯), a retro 80-year old bathhouse.  In 2015, 25 year-old Yusuke Minato, a long-time devotee to traditional bathhouses, took over the declining bathhouse and transformed it into a hip venue to promote traditional bathing, as well as occasional gigs and flea market.  We didn’t have time for a soak and would have to save it till next time.

21After another few minutes of walk we could see Kyoto Tower from a distance.  A big crow on the treetop over our head was making loud noises, as if yelling out our parting wishes with the ancient capital.

22Minutes later we reached the futuristic Kyoto Station once again.  We took the escalators down to the basement to pick up our backpacks at the lockers and hop on a Haruka Express for the Kansai Airport.  As the train leaving the station, we were already planning for a return trip sometime in the near future.  Kyoto was and always will be the perfect venue for us to dwell in the power of heritage, nature, and spirituality whenever we were overwhelmed by the dull and routine work lives.

This concludes the record of our 5-day Kyoto trip in December 2016.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan

On the summit of Mount Inari, there was a small Shinto shrine, and a shop selling candles and souvenirs.  The shop had yet opened its doors when we were there.  From the peak our only way was to head down.  We took our time and followed a different route to go down.  We ventured into a few quiet spots of small shrines and graves off the beaten track in the woods.  The descend was shorter than our uphill hike.  By the time we reached Yotsutsuji intersection again at midway, it was quite a different feeling with a whole lot more of visitors looking for the best lookout spot to take pictures.  We stopped by a few shrines to bow our heads, throw our coins, clap our hands and pay our respect to the Shinto deity.  As we approached the mountain foot, we were so grateful about the unique and delightful experience of the hike.  We felt a little sad for both the hike and our 5-day Kyoto trip were coming to an end.  We reached the final torii gate at around 10:40, exactly three hours from the beginning of the hike.

dsc_3993There was a small shrine at the peak of Mount Inari.  We went up, left some coins and felt grateful to have such nice weather for most of our stay in Kyoto.

01The shop at the peak had yet opened its doors.

dsc_3982The sun was higher and certainly brighter by 9:20 when we reached the peak.

03We chose a different route for the descend.

04There weren’t as many torii gates along the first part of this trail, and it felt like a walk in a densely forested hill.

dsc_3823Occasionally we would see the “donation price list” of torii gate along the trail.  Anyone, and in many cases tourists, could pay 1,302,000 Japanese yen to erect a vermilion torii gate to continue the tradition of the Senbon Torii (千本鳥居).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed by a few shops that were preparing to open for business.

07During our descend, we arrived at a forest opening where the peaceful sunlight shone through tree tops onto old graves and mini shrines.

08The air was crisp and fresh.  Everything was so peaceful and serene.

09There was a maintenance staff moving a few things here and there, but the atmosphere was otherwise supremely tranquil and spiritual.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo matter where we were on the trail of Mount Inari we could also find kitsune (fox) statues.

06Other than stone foxes, there were also occasional stone lions.

11And at one shrine, there was also a bronze horse statue.

12It was difficult to imagine how much work was needed to maintain all the thousands of small shrines and graves on Mount Inari, a spiritual destination ever since the first shrine was established here over 1300 years ago.

13There were layers upon layers of history, memories and wishes of different generations of worshipers at different corners on Mount Inari.

15Some of the temizuya (手水舎, purification pavilion) in front of the shrine was beautifully decorated.

16Despite simple, some small temizuya fit perfectly well with the naturalistic surroundings.

17The vermilion small torii offerings stood out no matter where they were placed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore reaching Yotsutsuji intersection, we passed by several shops housed in traditional wooden buildings right by the trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was just past 10:15 when we returned to Yotsutsuji intersection.  The number of visitors was significantly more than earlier when we first came up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn maybe an hour or so, the shops and tea restaurants would be packed with visitors.  The famous dish at Inari was the kitsune udon (fox udon), a bowl of hot thick wheat noodles topped with pieces of fried tofu, supposedly the favorite food for foxes.

20After Yotsutsuji intersection, we basically followed the same route that we came up.

21One of the last shrine we passed by was Byakkosha (白狐社), a shrine dedicated to the deity of white foxes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe vivid maples behind the last torii reminded us that autumn was almost over.  It was time for us to head back into city centre of Kyoto.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan

For several years the famous Shinto shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) has been voted as the favorite tourist attraction in Kyoto on a number of travel websites.  The images of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates) winding up the Mount Inari (233m) and the clusters of miniature shrines and private graves hidden in the woods certainly nourish the public imagination of a mysterious old Japan.  We thought of visiting the shrine in late afternoon or early evening when the twilight was gradually fading away, shifting the tone of everything from orange to violet and then blue.  Somehow that wasn’t realized, and instead we chose to explore this highly popular and spiritual place early in the morning of our last day of the trip.  To beat the crowds, getting up before sunrise was crucial.  It was only a short JR train ride from Kyoto Station to Inari Station.  By the time we set foot at the entrance route of the Taisha it was a little before 7:30am.

01To make the most out of the last day in Kyoto, we get up before dawn and carried our backpack and luggage to Kyoto Station.  At daybreak, we bid farewell to the tranquil Shirakawa River in our Higashiyama neighborhood.

02At Kyoto Station, we stored our belongings at one of the many lockers and hopped onto a Nara-bounded train for Inari Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride to the peaceful Inari Station took only a few minutes, and the entrance route of Fushimi Inari Taisha was just right across the road.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) was first established in the 8th century dedicated to Inari (稲荷大神), the God of Rice and Sake.  In the agricultural nation, the God of Rice was a powerful figure who governed the fortune of lives.  In the modern age, the power of Inari had been shifted to offer blessing on the prosperity of businesses and people’s lives in general.

04A large torii gate led us towards the Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate).

05The Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate) was a donation in 1589 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉), the famous daimyō (大名, feudal warlord) who unified a large part of the country.

06There were only a few visitors at the Worship Hall in front of the Honden (Main Building).  After paying our respects, we couldn’t wait longer to begin the hike up to the peak of Mount Inari via the remarkable Senbon Torii.

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On Mount Inari, two features stood out.  First was of course the vermilion torii gates.  Donated by individuals and business companies, there were over 5000 torii gates guiding our way up the Mount Inari.  The second feature was the kitsune (fox).  Uncounted statues of foxes appeared along the trail, usually came in pairs standing in front of the Shinto shrines.  Foxes were believed to be the Kenzoku, the messenger of god.

07We walked past the first pair of bronze fox statues right after the visit of the main shrine.  Many fox statues here carried a key in their mouth (to the rice granary).

08Our hike up the 4km trail began at this cluster of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates).

09Only a handful of visitors were there, such a blessing given this place is also famous for big visitor crowds throughout the day.  The record was 2.69 million during the 3 days of New Year period in 2006.

10Soon we arrived at the trailhead of the dual route.  Both route would ultimately converge back to a single path.  We picked the left route.

11From one direction, the Senbon Torii appeared clean and minimal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking back we could see columns of dates and donor’s names along the path as far as the eye could see.

14We stopped at most of the sub shrine along the trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a while, the trail gradually turned steeper with stone steps.

18Half way through the ascend, the view from the Yotsutsuji Intersection was amazing in a clear morning.  Many tourists would turn back from here.

19We continued on the uphill journey, and stopped by a number of miniature shrines and grave clusters.  Mini fox statues, mini vermilion torii gates and candles were often seen as offerings.

20We often made detours from the trail into groups of mini shrines and graves.  We bumped into this what looked like a shrine guardian cat.

21The cat came from behind the shrine and jumped from a a stone stele to another, and finally stayed on a small tablet under the morning sun… just for a few seconds.

22A pair of stone lions and foxes were on guard by the small shrine of God of Rain.

23The early morning sun was nice and warm, and cast a magical highlight onto the torii gates.

24Fallen autumn leaves added an extra sense of solitude to the quiet trail.

26While at certain spots the autumn leaves gave a vivid background to the otherwise greyish setting of stones steles and statues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the time we reached “Second Peak” we knew we were just minutes away from the peak.

27At around 9:15 we reached the top of Mount Inari, after about an hour and 45 minutes of hike.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan