Kyōto - Gion & Fushimi-Inari

8-10 March 2010

With my upcoming promotion as an excuse, my parents and brother came to visit Japan. As writing was finished, and my final presentation had been given, I joined them for a much-deserved holiday. I picked them up from Osaka airport and we arrived at our ryokan in Kyōto at night. The next days we would stay in Kyōto, after which we would rent a car and go around Ise, Wakayama, and a part of Shikoku, to finally return the car in Kyōto and take the bullet train for Tōkyō.

The first day ended up being for souvenir shopping and seeing Kiyomizu temple. Searching for a restaurant to have breakfast, we passed the "Kongōji Yasaka Kōshin-dō" (金剛寺八坂庚申堂). A small, but remarkable temple.

Apparently, the little dolls are "kukurizaru" (くくり猿), which represent monkies bound by their hands and feet. For this Buddhist sect, it represents the fact that we have to control our playful desires and be patient. (More about the kukurizaru here [wiki] and here.)

Old house along the Sannenzaka. When I was checking on something relating to the poet Bashō for the folowing page, I just found out that this is the path to the room for tea ceremony. The path's design supposedly illustrates "the concept of wabi of Bashō. It's rustic beauty, modesty and tranquility. [source (bottom of page)]
More info on the house and the garden with poet's hut: overview, English intro.

[HDR] Kiyomizu temple (清水寺)

View down the Ninensaka (2 year slope) from the Sannenzaka (3 year slope). Both streets are historical, with many old buildings (mainly restaurants and artist/souvenir shops now).

The second day we set out to see the Sanjūsangen-dō, a long woodend building with 1001 kanon (female buddha incarnation) statues. However, taking photos was allowed there. In the afternoon we went to Fushimi-inari, my favorite sight around Kyōto.

Fushimi-inari consists of a number of slopes with several small shrines connected by hiking trails. Almost all trails are covered by red torii (normally, a single torii is used as the gate to a shrine).

The inari god is "Since in early Japan Inari was seen as the patron of business, each of the Torii is donated by a Japanese business." [wiki]. On the left side is the name of the company, on the right side is the year / month (in Japanese calendar) and something which translates as "this was built on the lucky day".
The one in the front was donated by 山中宏晃 (Mr. Hiroaki Yamanaka) from 大阪府 (Ōsaka Prefecture), and the second and third one are from companies in Tōkyō prefecture (they start with 東京都). The front most one was built (or maybe donated) on 平成 (Heisei, the current imperial period) 十八年 (18 Year, i.e., A.D.2006) 十一月(11 Month, i.e., November) 吉日(lucky day) 建之(this was built)

Inari is the god for "fertility, rice, agriculture, foxes, industry and worldly success" [wiki]. The fox is considered to be its messenger, and fox statues are often guarding the entrance of an Inari shrine.

Wherever you go in Japan, even after a steep climb, you will find some vending machines selling cold water, tea, juice, coffee, and sometimes a soft drink.


We did not go all the way around, because it was getting dark and my leg hurt. When we came down, we passed another strange place. It seems to be a graveyard with grave-rocks (rather than grave-stones) with thick ropes tied around them. When we really got down, we found ourselves ending up at the south entrance of the Tōfuku-ji temple (where I had been last summer, I didn't know these places were almost connected!)

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