My favourite day in Kyoto started like every other morning in Japan. A collective, family sleep in followed by a slow walk to the buffet breakfast. The children loved eating fruits, blueberry yoghurt, eggs and fresh croissants. Early in the afternoon, we took a cab to the southern part of the city to visit the most amazing shrine I have ever seen.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important shinto shrine, famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794.
We were not prepared for the absolute beauty of this place. We were spoiled too in that it was completely deserted for our entire visit, a rarity in Japan! We passed only a handful of tourists along the walk, but for the most part, the only sounds we heard were the animals in the bushland, a stream running through the track and the sounds of bodies, breathing heavily as we climbed the steps through the torii gates.
Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion is a zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of a shogun. Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.
On our last night in Kyoto, we visited the Yasaka Shrine. Also known as Gion Shrine, this is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. Founded over 1350 years ago, the shrine is located between the popular Gion District and Higashiyama District and is often visited by tourists walking between the two districts.
The shrine’s main hall combines the honden (inner sanctuary) and haiden (offering hall) into a single building. In front of it stands a dance stage with hundreds of lanterns that get lit in the evenings. Each lantern bears the name of a local business in return for a donation.
6 days just seemed to fly past. Our visit was short but enjoyed immensely by the entire family. I will have to visit Kyoto again, I was so drawn to the senses of this city. Next time, I want to rent a house and ride bikes around the flat streets and get lost in the back alleys that zig zag this amazing little part of Japan.
The most important part of our time in Kyoto was that Harriet officially mastered walking. She finally had the courage to let go of the walls and just do it. We are all so proud of her and ever since, she is seeing the world from a much higher prospective on 2 legs instead of all fours.
More to come from our last day in Japan, spent at none other than Disneyland!