Kyoto has been beautiful. The city is big, but manageable, the people have been lovely,and our house comfortable. But I will admit that we have become a little temple/shrine fatigued. I’m not sure if a survey has been done as to whether there are more churches in Rome, or more temples in Kyoto, but I think the Japanese contender MAY just win. There are not just the big tourist attraction type shrines, with their ema (prayer boards), omikuji (fortunes) and goshuin stamps. There are mini ones squeezed between shops and down alleyways with statues in cases donning bibs, or little grass skirts, not unlike the effigies of Mary you see wearing dresses or little capes in Spain and South America.
Many of the bigger temples are popular because they have something that makes them stand out. They offer killer views, they have specialised deities heading them, or have some kind of historical significance. South of Kyoto, Fushimi-Inari Taisha ticks two boxes on the “best of the best” checklist – there are photo opportunities galore with its endless rows of vermilion torii gates that wind like tunnels through the forest and over the hills in Fushimi-ku; and the sacred fox messengers (Inari, also the god of rice), that peer our at you right across the complex.
Foxes man the torii gates, keep guard over graves, and mini ones are bought as offerings. Even the ema have fox faces on them, and some Japanese pilgrims were pretty creative with their designs. Many of them have little keys in their mouths: the key to the rice granaries they’re prayed to to ensure prosperity.
There are literally thousands of torii gates. Each gate is donated by a Japanese business, and once the throng of tourists at the start of the trail dissipated, walking up the stone steps with the sun pushing through between the dark orange gates was ethereal.
We also visited a couple of temples in our wanderings in Northern Higashiyama, walking distance from our house.
Nanzen-ji was an enormous complex with gardens, sub-temples, and even a Romanesque aqueduct! It’s amazing how close the centre of Kyoto is to the wild forested mountains surrounding it. Behind this temple complex is (another) shrine, this one hidden in the woods, with a chilly waterfall used as a prayer spot for keen pilgrims.
We also stumbled across the Okazaki-jinja shrine, dedicated to bunnies, and childbirth!
I’ve managed to collect a few stamps in my Goshuin book – some stamped and signed with dedication and perfection, and others bashed out by angry temple workers who have signed their 100th book of the day. But that’s it. NO MORE TEMPLES! (Except for the one at the temple flea market tomorrow…ssshhhhhhh. Don’t tell the girls!)