A Japanese Adventure : “Shrines, Foxes, Temples and Deer”

It was hard to believe the first real day of sight-seeing (Day 2 of the trip) was over! We woke up energized and ready for our next adventure!

And we started off our adventure the way all great adventures should start…. with a healthy (and delicious) breakfast.. thanks to some Matcha Latte and Eggs Benedict – Kyoto Style..! 🙂

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And then we we were off! Our first stop was the Fushimi Inari Shrine!

Background:
Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates…[…]…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.”
(http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3915.html)

As we walked to the shrine from the bus parking, the streets were lined with lively little shops, selling snacks, souvenirs, paintings, postcards, plants and more… we stopped by the shops once we’d seen the shrine. With plenty of tourists making their way up, just for a moment, I was concerned about getting lost or separated from the group, but fortunately that did not happen.

As you can see in the pictures, the entrance to shrine is flanked by 2 foxes and one has a key in its mouth.
A little info: “Foxes (kitsune), regarded as the messengers, are often found in Inari shrines. One attribute is a key (for the rice granary) in their mouths.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fushimi_Inari-taisha)

‘Thousands’ of gates is no exaggeration as you’ll see from the pictures below! The entire shrine spans a large area. There’s quite a bit of walking from one area to the next, and every path, passage or walkway is lined with … you guessed it… red gates! 🙂

At some areas of the shrine (as with subsequent Shinto shrines we visited), we saw people writing their wishes/prayers on little wooden plaques. The plaques are called ‘Ema’.

Background:
““Ema” (絵馬) 
are wooden wishing plaques. This is a Shinto custom and thus can be found at shrines all over Japan…[…]… In recent days people write their wishes or prayers on a wooden plaque that can be purchased at the shrine and then hang it up on the shrine grounds.” (http://zoomingjapan.com/wiki/ema/)


On the way back to the bus, many of us had split up to do our own exploring, so my sister and I had time to explore the shops we had passed on the way to the shrine.

And that’s where I picked up this adorable little souvenir!

0I also had the chance to try ‘Inari Sushi’.
“Inarizushi is a simple and inexpensive type of sushi, in which sushi rice is filled into aburaage (deep fried tofu) bags.” – (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2038.html)
That about sums it up – Simple, inexpensive… and tasty! 🙂

There was a bit of strange incident as we had to wait first at a train crossing, because someone seemed to have tripped an emergency switch causing all gates to lock down, and each gate had to be opened manually one at a time by inspectors, ensuring that no actual accident had taken place. Fortunately, there didn’t seem to have been any accident. After that mini-adventure (which just involved waiting), we had to wait for 2 missing and chronically late group members who unfortunately got lost and found their way back after an hour.
Interesting Note: In some bus parking areas, the bus cannot start its engine (and therefore its Air Conditioner) while parked. This means that if even one member of your group is late, you could end up stuck and waiting for your missing buddy on a very hot and humid summer morning! 🙂

When we finally did get moving, we took our time to relax, rehydrate and enjoy the view from the bus:


 

Our next stop of the day was the Todaiji temple at Nara.
Background:  (東大寺, Tōdaiji, “Great Eastern Temple”) is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara… […]… Along the approach to Todaiji stands the Nandaimon Gate, a large wooden gate watched over by two fierce looking statues. …[…]…Temple visitors will also encounter some deer from the adjacent Nara Park, begging for shika senbei, special crackers for deer that are sold for around 150 yen. (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4100.html)

Yup… that’s right… DEER! … roaming around quite peacefully between visitors 🙂

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And here are the two guardians. “Representing the Nio Guardian Kings, the statues are designated national treasures together with the gate itself.” (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4100.html)

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The entrance to the temple was absolutely stunning! I enjoyed the walk up to the temple entrance, perhaps even more so than the temple itself. 🙂

Background on temple:
“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 Bodhisattvas. Big Buddha (Daibutsu) – his open hand alone is as tall as a human being
Several smaller Buddhist statues and models of the former and current buildings are also on display in the Daibutsuden Hall. Another popular attraction is a pillar with a hole in its base that is the same size as the Daibutsu’s nostril. It is said that those who can squeeze through this opening will be granted enlightenment in their next life.” (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4100.html)


 

It was really quite a wonder to behold. As we walked back, many of us taking time to relax by the lake or feed the deer, and others scouring souvenir shops nearby, I helped myself to one of these delicious delights (perhaps my favourite snack in Japan): “Shaved Ice with Strawberry Syrup” – perfect to beat the heat! 🙂

IMG_4846Our next stop was another traditional Japanese lunch… which I’ll cover in my next post.

 

 

 

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