This past weekend I spent 3 days exploring Kyoto with my friend Siobhan. This was our last adventure together in Japan and I have to say, it was the best!
Our first stop on Friday was to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Inari is the god of rice in the Japanese Shinto religion and this is one of the most important shrines dedicated to the god. The shrine is by Mount Inari, so the main thing to do is walk up the mountain. The path is marked by thousands of torii gates (the big, red gates) and there are multiple shrines on the way up the mountain. Siobhan and I didn't walk all the way up, but we probably got halfway before we decided to head back down. This shrine is amazing, and the farther up the mountain you climb the quieter it gets. It seemed to me like only Japanese people intent on making a pilgrimage to the top shrine continued to the top. Most foreign tourists turn back after the first or second shrine. At the base of the mountain where the main shrine stands, the streets are lined with small restaurants and souvenir shops. It was here that I discovered one of my favorite parts about Kyoto. All the Japanese people seemed so impressed by how well we could speak Japanese, and they really seemed to appreciate it. Siobhan and I received a few free gifts during our trip simply because of the fact that we spoke as much Japanese as we possibly could.
Our next stop was to Kiyomizu Temple. This Buddhist temple is dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon. It is one of the main pilgrimage temples for Kannon worshipers all over Japan. This temple is also on a mountain, the same as Fushimi Inari Shrine, so we definitely got our exercise in! At the temple they had a wishing stone in a little basement part of one of the temple buildings. You have to take off your shoes and then walk along a completely black passage, guided only by a railing. When you reach the stone, a small light is shining on it, and after you make your wish you proceed along the railing until you reach the stairs to take you back to ground level. This was definitely one of the coolest yet scariest things I have ever done at a temple!
Our last sightseeing stop of the day was to Gion. Gion is the most famous Geisha district in Kyoto. The streets are lined with restaurants, small shrines, cafes, and little shops. We had a great time wandering the streets and looking at all the Geisha inspired cosmetics that are sold. I didn't even know that there was a need for half the things we saw! Our final stop in Gion was a small Okonomiyaki shop. The walls were covered with hilarious drawings and they had mannequins sitting at some of the tables! This restaurant was definitely the quirkiest place I have ever eaten at.
P.S. the tea of the day is apple tea ^_^