Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kyoto Day One - Fushimi-Inari and Nishiki Market

We had a great first day in Kyoto exploring the majestic Fushimi-Inari Taisha in the southern part of town.

 Like most of the temples we visited, the streets leading up to the shrine were lined with shops and food vendors.  We saw quite a few chopstick stores and lots of dried fruit for sale.

 The shrine is for Inari, the god of rice, sake, and prosperity.

Thousands of stone foxes surround the shrine and the statues almost all have something symbolic in their mouths.  I wish I could tell you why all the foxes were there, but my guidebook didn't provide an explanation.

 10,000 laquered gates lead up the mountain.

 It was absolutely stunning.

 Because Inari is the god of prosperity, local businesses pay for the 10,000 gates.  We thought the writing on the gates was beautiful, but it probably said "Wal-Mart" and "T-Mobile" all over them for all we know.

 We knew it was supposed to be a trek up to the top, but that didn't make it any less tiring!

 Throughout the hike there are places to buy drinks, food, and most importantly ice cream!  In typical Japanese fashion there are also plenty of clean bathrooms.

 At the top there was no view but plenty of quiet and a place to worship.

 At the half-way point there is a beautiful view of Kyoto that we admired much more on the downhill than when we were huffing and puffing on the way up.

 In the evening we strolled through an indoor shopping arcade complete with tacky faux-American clothes as well as beautiful handmade things and vintage books (like the one from 1764 above).

 The shopping arcade lead to Nishiki Market, a big food emporium in Kyoto that services tourists and locals.

Per usual, we didn't know what most of the food was, and what we could recognize was occasionally frightening.

We had a great time walking around, and I enjoyed a lovely fried potato, carrot, and pumpkin lollipop.  Afterwards we had big bowls of ramen for dinner to finish our first full day in Kyoto.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tokyo Day Three - Meiji Jingu and Harajuku

 The clouds cleared and revealed a perfectly sunny Tokyo for us on our third day.  We walked from our hotel to Harajuku and essentially had the streets to ourselves.

 We enjoyed about an hour in Yoyogi Koen, a non-touristy park/garden that was wonderful to walk around.

 After the park we headed to Meiji Shrine, which honors Emperor Meiji, naturally.  I'm standing under the giant cypress gates at the entrance of the complex.

You can barely make out John underneath this gate.  Apparently the gates mark the separation of the secular world from the spiritual world of the shrine.

 Along the walk to the shrine there were beautifully painted sake barrels.

 The shrine itself was beautiful and serene.

We were there on a Sunday and got to witness three of four wedding parties marching past.  

 Some of the guests/wedding party were dressed in beautiful traditional kimonos, and John and I loved watching the adorable little girls march along all gussied up.

 Right outside the shrine is the wild Harajuku station which is heaped with throngs of teenagers.

 Takeshita Street is its own planet, almost, with delightfully tacky stores going on for blocks and blocks.

John and I basically walked along the corridor with our mouths agape, occasionally laughing at the names and contents of the ridiculous stores.

The people-watching in Harajuku is unparalleled, as the patrons match the surroundings perfectly.

I dragged John into yet another elaborate toy store - Kiddyland.  I exercised restraint and only bought one thing in the four-story giant.

This store was set up a little nicer than the other toy stores we visited, but it didn't have quite as much wacky merchandise.  I absolutely love browsing in these stores, though - they have even exceeded my expectations.

After the excitement of Harajuku we hopped on the bullet train and headed south to Kyoto where there is decidedly less neon and significantly more beauty.  More on Kyoto soon!