Kyoto

Fushimi Inari-taisha

Few countries come close to how I felt about Japan once I returned from it.

Maybe because it was a complete culture switch. Maybe because I’ve been enamored by its ways, no matter how mundane the influences that seeped into my life (kanji and kimono, anime and manga, sushi and yakisoba, bonsai and zen). Maybe because it has a way of soothing and invigorating your soul with the way it values nature, design, technology, and doing things well.

In the spring of 2014 (gasp, a season I never had before), just in time for the cherry blossom bloom, we visited the Kansai region. In Kyoto, it was all about getting a feel for old Nihon through its well-preserved temples and districts.

Click on the images to view larger. View the whole album here.

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari-taisha

This Shinto shrine to the deity Inari was a visual treat with striking orange everywhere, especially on its thousand gates (“senbon torii”) that you could trek all the way into the mountain. At the quintessential photo spot of the landmark, some posts appear to be sponsored by companies.

Mini torii, Fushimi Inari-taisha

Senbon Torii, Fushimi Inari-taisha

Another way this temple set itself apart was Inari’s dutiful foxes (“kitsune”) scattered about, from statues scowling at you, to offerings you drew faces on, to kawaii plushies for sale.

Fushimi Inari-taisha

Kitsune faces, Fushimi Inari-taisha

Fushimi Inari-taisha

Kinkakuji

Kinkaku Phoenix

Kinkaku-ji

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion was once a statesman’s villa turned Zen temple, whose main attraction is said golden structure, but also features sprawling grounds with springs, ponds, pagoda, paths, and other spots to explore. (There’s also a Ginkakuji, a “silver” pavilion in another ward, which we didn’t visit.)

Hojo, Kinkaku-ji

Ryumon-baku

Kinkaku-ji

Arashiyama

Togetsukyo, Arashiyama

Togetsukyo, Arashiyama

Literally “storm mountain”, we seem to have dropped by when a storm was, indeed, brewing over the mountain. This is another famous touristy neighborhood, featuring Togetsukyo (“moon-crossing bridge”), rickshaw tours (pulled by people), another Zen temple (Tenryu-ji), and the Sagano bamboo forest. In between were blocks of shops and modern architectural homes that blended old and new.

Rickshaw, Arashiyama

Bamboo Grove, Arashiyama

Arashiyama

Nishiki Ichiba

Nishiki Market

We wound up in Shijo street and had a look at the nearby market. It was one long corridor filled with eye-catching wares, from pretty souvenirs to raw food.

Fans at Nishiki Market

nikiniki, yatsuhashi shop

Experiencing Japan was like this: every corner was something new, different, interesting to look at. It may have been ordinary for the locals, but it felt special because you could see the deliberate care and effort. The smallest piece of candy, brush stroke, or store arrangement was artistic.

Veggies at Nishiki Market

Radish? at Nishiki Market

Up next: Osaka

Our home base was actually Osaka, but it took several days of zipping back and forth to check off Kyoto, taking about an hour each way via train.

Plush seating, yo

Did I intentionally hold off on sakura pics in this post? Maybe. See all photos here.

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