Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day in Kyoto (Fushimi Inari Shrine, Ginkakuji, Philosopher's Path, Gion)

Is it possible to have a bad day in Kyoto?  We began with Fushimi Inari Shrine with its thousands of torii gates.  The shrine is the oldest (first built in 711) and the head shrine for Inari, thought to bring good luck for businesses.  Of course, every business wants to give money to have a gate for their business (from 400,000 yen ($4,000) for small gates to over 100,000,000 yen ($1 million)) at the shrine and the result is an amazing 2 hour hike up and down a mountain through a path of orange in forest sun.

entrance to the shrine

a small portion of the gates

two paths from which to choose

gates in the sun

a place along the path where we stopped for boiled eggs

gates in the sun
After Fushimi Inari shrine we took a bus to the Ginkakuji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion) and enjoyed the beautiful rock gardens and landscaping.  I've always loved this space; it is very different from its cousin Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion).  It was conceived by Ashikaga Yoshimasa to match his grandfather's Kinkakuji.  He had planned that it would be covered in a silver facade, but plans never came to fruition.  We noted the rough and seemingly neglected finish to the building, a stark contrast to the gardens saturated in care.  How could they have failed to do a paint job?

But it seems it is a expression of "wabi-sabi," a Japanese aesthetic concept that acknowledges the impermanence and imperfection of all things in life, a feeling of acceptance that things should be as they are.  The perfect asymmetry of the garden spreads this feeling throughout the space–perhaps it is what keeps me coming back, to walk in its midst.

Ginkakuji, the non-Silver Pavilion
We walked through tempting shops with lots of sweet samples and headed to the Gion District via the Philosopher's Path, so named for a 20th century Japanese philosopher, Kitaro Nishida, said to have walked along it.  There were temples, shops, cats, a little stream, and beautiful views of the city sky.  In the spring it will burst into bloom, and in fall it will rain red.

view from the Philosopher's Path
We continued the journey along various streams towards the Gion District.

Twilight in Kyoto
And once there, we caught the evening with lighted lanterns in temples, shops with glowing fabrics, chopsticks, and ceramics.  We walked along the old streets before finally settling for our first official meal in the city of Kyoto–nabe, yudofu, tempura, rolled egg omelets, miso soup, rice and vegetables.

warm food after a long cold day

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