Archives for October 2015

Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine


Orange you glad.

Certain places you just have to see to understand. I remember when Mike and I were planning our trip to Japan. We were discussing what we knew off the top of our heads about Kyoto. I said, “Everyone seems to go to those orange gates, but I don’t really get why.” Ok, I totally get why now.


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The Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine dedicated to the gods of rice. In total, there are five shrines on the site. However, it’s the thousands of orange gates (torii) that get all the attention. The gates line 4 kilometers of pathway that wind up and down Inari Mountain. Visitors can travel along as much of the path as they like, depending on how strenuous of a hike they are seeking. The impressive gates, the beautiful greenery, and the peaceful atmostphere made it pretty clear why Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the top sites in Kyoto.

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We arrived in the morning and it was much busier than these photos would have you believe. We timed our photographs to hit the gaps in the long train of people coming up and down the path. We also got good at adjusting our bodies to block other tourists in the background. I think we did a pretty good job of it.


I love the subtle ombre in these leaves. 


Yet another example of why reading a guidebook can be a valuable experience. On the other hand, it’s sometimes nice to have zero expectations. You have the opportunity to be genuinely stunned.

Kyoto: Kiyomizu-dera

To think we almost missed it.


From Osaka, we headed to Kyoto. After arriving at our guesthouse and dropping off our bags, we headed out to find something to eat. On the way, we noticed a pretty pagoda at the end of a long and narrow street. Feeling curious, we decided to check it out. Turns out, the pagoda led us to another pathway that went up a hill to a popular tourist spot. There were souvenir shops, ice cream stands, and lots and lots of Boy Scouts. (The World Scout Jamboree was held in Japan this year).


Then, we arrived at a beautiful gate, climbed the steps, and started a debate. Should we pay the relatively inexpensive entrance fee or just keep looking for lunch? How silly we would later feel. Thankfully, we decided to just go for it and check it out. It didn’t take long to realize we had wandered up to Kiyomizu-dera… one of Kyoto’s top sites.

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One of the most impressive features at Kiyomizu-dera is the veranda on the main building. It stretches out away from the hillside and is supported by numerous wooden pillars. When you view the veranda from other areas on the grounds, it’s a bit like looking at a giant treehouse. The greenery of the trees nearly swallows up the building.

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Water from the Otowa Waterfall is considered sacred and visitors line up to to drink it. The water is said to bring health, longevity, and wisdom, depending on which stream you sample. I didn’t notice any labels though so I have no clue which gift Mike or I will receive.

Near the end of our trip when Mike and I were reflecting on our favorite sights, we both picked Kiyomuzo-dera. We laughed at ourselves trying to decide if it would be worth the entrance fee. I know some people are pretty anti-guidebook when they travel. I’m not one of them but I am sometimes lazy. This is a perfect example of when guidebooks are helpful. If I had picked up our guidebook and taken a closer look at the map, there would have been no debate on the steps of Kiyomuzo-dera.

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A bit later in the afternoon we wandered down through Gion to Shimbashi, the “prettiest street.” Based on these photos, you might not believe me, but it actually was beautiful. My iPhone and the overcast sky  did their best to work against it. I would love to see it on a spring evening with the cherry blossoms in bloom.

More from Kyoto to come. (Eventually!)

Arriving in Japan

Osaka, to start.

Mike and I began our trip to Japan in Osaka. In the days before our arrival I was obsessively following a typhoon that was headed right for the Kansai Region. Thankfully, the storm wasn’t nearly as strong as anticipated. By the time we landed, there weren’t any signs of severe weather.

To be honest, my memories of Osaka are a bit colored with uneasiness. It was there that I discovered that my debit card would not work. According to my bank, the PIN was incorrect. According to me, my bank was to blame. I had somewhat recently used my card in Korea, so I knew the PIN was fine. Then I systematically tried every single PIN number it could possibly be, just in case I was mistaken. Well, nothing worked. Thankfully, I have a very generous travel partner who gladly pre-approved me for a large travel loan.

Memories of Osaka that don’t involve running around to various ATMs include visiting Osaka Castle and the Dontonbori district.
Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan

In my opinion, Osaka Castle is best enjoyed from the outside. The inside is a small museum but unless you can understand Japanese you’ll miss out on a lot of the good information. The view from the top was nice but not spectacular. I think I enjoyed gazing at the castle while eating a shaved ice much more. However, it was a pretty hot day so that may have been a factor.

Osaka, JapanThe famous “Running Man.” 

Osaka, Japan

Takoyaki on the right.

Osaka, JapanIn Dontonbori, we walked along the canal and through the crowds. The neon lights and over the top signage lured tourists to try some new culinary experiences.  Mike opted for the famous takoyaki octopus balls. He described them as “molten” in the middle and couldn’t finish the batch. Just another moment I was happy to be a vegetarian.  Although I got off to a rocky start in Osaka, I really enjoyed our guesthouse and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quiet and peaceful place to stay. 

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