Bad hip, bad knee and really bad feet but too stubborn to quit. That would probably be the theme of the day. Or perhaps the week but how can I not keep going in a city that has so much to offer. I have left my room before 8 each day and never seem to make it home til 9:30. I barely take time to sit or eat. Please Buddha, I will be leaving a few pounds behind when I leave on the 3:30 train to Tokyo tomorrow.
I had big plans for today but I seriously underestimated the time and effort involved in the two primary activities. Clearly due to my lack of research.
I had planned to be back in time for a quick clean up before taking in a geisha show but that did not happen. I am not, however, the least bit disappointed. This has been an amazing day. I actually thought I might have been “templed out” but today’s temples were simply spectacular and are certainly the trip highlights.
This morning I made my way to the town of Nara just 45 minutes outside of Kyoto. Because I had to take a bus and then walk 30 minutes across the huge Kyoto station to find my train, this 45 minute trips was almost an hour and a half. Nara, like Kyoto, has a number of temples and shrines, several of which seem very impressive. But, since I had a busy day, I opted to “just” take in the most famous Todai-ji temple.
In both temples today, the crowds were enormous. There were hundreds or thousands of school children, many of whom were working on their “speak to a foreigner” project. Still it was worth it.
When you first arrive in Nara you are immediately greeted by the thousands of deer who roam freely. They look ok but they smell terrible and poop all over the road. Several times one came quietly up behind me and nearly made me poop in the road.
Todaiji's main hall, the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the world's largest wooden building, despite the fact that the present reconstruction of 1692 is only two thirds of the original temple hall's size. The massive building houses one of Japan's largest bronze statues of Buddha (Daibutsu). The 15 meters tall, seated Buddha represents Vairocana and is flanked by two gold Bodhisattvas. It was beautiful.
On the way out of the hall, I discovered this guy and because of his healing powers, I damn near rubbed all his wood away and gave myself a public bath. I even took off my shoes and rubbed my feet. And one point on the way up Inari, I thought he cured my feet but the way down confirmed he needs a little more time to work on it.
Few more from the temple. I climbed to the top. Unspoken rule, if there is a place to climb, you must! What if you missed something amazing?
From there, I took a different train back into Kyoto and Inari station. Kyoto has so many different forms of transportation; I never know what I am riding. But this train stopped immediately in front of the first gate to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Again, filled with masses of people.
I was unprepared. I knew there were gonna be gates and I heard some saying about 1000 vermilon tori gates but I never read on to learn that there are estimated to be over 10,000 and that they reach the top of a mountain and that the climb will take 2-3 hours (4kms up hill). Instead I took my time exploring the grounds, snapping pictures and climbing through the gates. As time went on, and almost an hour into my leisurely visit, I notice the crowds are disappearing. I come across this map that tells me I am about ¼ of the way there. I had to get in gear and start making progress.
A few more from along the way. Just a few. I took way more.
Did I mention it was over 30 degrees today and suddenly I was grateful to have arrived later than planned and past the middle of the day and the hottest hours. I climbed on, as it got steeper and at the halfway mark two ladies tried to convince me to quit and others said there was more than an hour left ( there was not, more like 30 minutes). It was 4:30 at this point but I had come too far to quit and had flashbacks of my first Gross Morne climb as a kid where I quit after many hours only to learn that I was only about 5 minutes from the peak and those at the top could hear me talking. Never again.
It really wasn’t that bad, just unexpected, by most, in fact, and there were very few at the top. No doubt that was in part to my late arrival. Truthfully, it wasn’t the top that was most spectacular but rather the hundreds of detours filled with shrines, temples and treasures. It was so cool and eerie at times. I loved every minute.
I read this in the Lonely Planet guide when I got home.
“It also makes for a very eerie stroll in the late afternoon and early evening, when the various graveyards and miniature shrines along the path take on a mysterious air. It’s best to go with a friend at this time.”
That pretty much sums it up and on descent, alone, and confused at times because I was heading up hill, I was thinking I probably should have told someone where I was going today.
I begin my visit to Inari feeling old but by the time I reach the top, after watching so many turn back, I felt young and empowered, if only briefly. Looking at my selfie, I really worked for it.
At the top, I met my first Canadians on this trip and this encounter proved to be quite an advantage.
The descent was faster but still had some distractions. A cool coffee stop and a temple filled with more foxes (the messenger for Inari) so I didn’t rush it. The gates get further apart and the landscape lusher.
The white paper tied to string are seen at all of the temples and are bad wishes left behind so the spirits can exorcise them
By the time I got down, the place had emptied.
If you want to do the research that I missed, click here...
I was glad to run into the Toronto couple when I hit the train stations. Even more so when I learned the tracks were closed due to an accident. Equipped with a gps and wifi, they had us on an electric train within minutes. I would have been rummaging through my papers for a long time trying to find a re-route.
By the time I landed at my stop it was 6:30 and way too late for the show but not too late to stop for sushi and rest my feet. Yum.
So I am back in my room, resting my tootsies, which always seem to forgive me by morning, with a load of laundry done contemplating how to have a quieter morning in Kyoto before heading back to Tokyo.
I tried to have less pictures in this blog than I had of the bamboo forest but they are all a little different. The light changes, it turns and rises....sigh. I can't pick and I don't have time to pick my favs.
The view at the halfway mark
By the way, the Japanese are sugar obsessed. Candy shops everywhere.