Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kyoto, Japan: last day

So, we got up fairly early our last day in Kyoto and checked out of the hotel. We were fortunately able to leave our luggage at the main desk, as we had one more adventure to attend to in Kyoto.

We caught the subway down to a much more southern area of Kyoto. The neighborhoods started to look like little towns, not part of a big city the further south we got. We were headed to the Fushimi-Inari Taisha, which is a hillside shrine established in the 8th century and dedicated to the gods of rice and sake. As agriculture has waned in importance throughout the centuries, these same gods now serve as representative of successful business as well. It's a very popular shrine. People still come here frequently to pray and light candles. We saw several business men, with their bluetooth headsets or cell phones, heading up the hill to pray for success in whatever deals were going on in their lives.

Fushimi-Inari is notable because of the hundreds and hundreds of red Torii gates (or arches) that wind their way in tunnels up the hillside. Each one is donated by person, establishment or family and they seem to be replaced by new ones as soon as an old one crumbles or rots. They are all carved with names or (we think) Buddhist sayings on one side (the down hill side). There were a couple of stone Torii gates as well.

Fushimi-Inari also has dozens (maybe into the hundreds) of Kitsune, or stone foxes. The foxes often have a large key in their mouths, which is supposed to be the key to granary. Foxes are supposed to be very supernatural, and are known to frequently possess people by entering their bodies through the undersides of their fingernails.

The shrine was absolutely gorgeous and we took one kazillion photos. I'll post a few here, but you'll just have to go look at flickr.

After coming back in to Kyoto, we went and had lunch at a soba (buckwheat noodle) place that we had been attempting to find for the entire time we were in Kyoto. We finally managed to hunt it down and have lunch there. This particular place has been in the soba noodle business for the last 300 years, and boy do they know their business! Brian and I both had their specialty, cold soba noodles with dipping sauce. It was super delicious. Very simple, very clean and very yummy. The restaurant itself was so pretty and cute, with a traditional entrance and lots of tiny rooms that opened into each other with sliding doors, and wooden stairs and such.

That was the end. We caught a shinkenzen back to Tokyo, and then road a subway almost to our hotel, and then a cab for the rest of the way to our hotel in Narita (where the airport is located). It was pretty late when we arrived at the hotel. Our hotel was fine, but it was obvious that it's glory days were well past. I'm sure it was an awesome hotel in the 80's. The whole time at this place felt a little surreal, especially after noticing that the hotel across the street was called "Hotel Chapel Christmas" and had santas crawling all over it and a giant, blue xmas tree with blinking lights on the front of the building. We said our goodbyes to Andrea, as she was heading off to Bangkok the next day, slept and checked out the next morning. The hotel had a shuttle to take us to the airport, where we flew back to Portland.

goodbye Japan. You were awesome. I'm coming back sometime, but not in August. How 'bout I visit you in the spring, with the cherry blossoms? k?


K Schimmy said...

The whole fox lore sounds intriguing. I always thought my fingernails were vulnerable.

Ms. Angie said...

Great photos. Those noodles look especially good.