Ehhh, good enough

A menacing  kitsune  at the entrance to Fushimi Inari shrine .  

A menacing kitsune at the entrance to Fushimi Inari shrine. 

Day 4 began in a cozy, warm room and it was never warmer thereafter. Knowing how warm the northwest is becoming, I truly didn't prepare for the coldness that is Kyoto. Once again, we had to deal with the terrible transportation system that doesn't really assist foreigners. So when you find out the bus isn't going where you intended you jump off and try to find an alternate route. Eventually we made it to Fushimi-Inari, a torii-filled shrine I have wanted to visit since I watched Memoirs of a Geisha. Like the days before, my foot was still in pain, but that didn't stop me from wanting to reenact one of my favorite scenes from the film. I didn't know that Fushimi-Inari was actually a shrine filled with kitsune (fox) statues as opposed to the shishi (lion dogs) at each torii (gate). Also, I didn't realize that there were multiple shrines to see along a mountain. Because it was a pretty light traverse I had ambitions on making it to the top to get a photo of the view of Kyoto, but that hope was quickly dashed as my right foot began to give out and we became pressed for time if we wanted to make it to Kiyomizudera at a decent hour. So once we reached the halfway point, there happened to be a view that I openly told Ian was "good enough for me." An English speaker heard me say this and had a laugh. Throughout the day this more or less became my quote.

The view from halfway up is good enough for me and kitty. Also, I didn't make it to Tōji temple, but I could see it. Tōji temple houses the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan. Good enough.

The view from halfway up is good enough for me and kitty. Also, I didn't make it to Tōji temple, but I could see it. Tōji temple houses the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan. Good enough.

After we left Fushimi Inari, we made our way to Kiyomizudera, that is after we stopped for some udon. Kiyomizudera is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has a brilliantly orange entrance, and was made without a single nail. In fact it's probably for this reason it was under restoration in the main area which was a bummer, but it was still beautiful from what I could tell. Other notable mentions in Kiyomizudera were the shrine for business luck being a big fat black Buddha type figure, a housed horse statue with business cards thrown into the housing, a shrine for the love god Ōkuninishi symbolized by rabbits and a man with a hammer, and a tree filled with nails representing the "2am visit" death curse that women wished upon the men who betrayed them. Maybe they wouldn't have to constantly restore the building if they used some of those nails for things other than curses.

The main shrine on top, a pagoda and me with the love bun. 

The main shrine on top, a pagoda and me with the love bun. 

Once we left Kiyomizudera we continued to walk up a path filled with shrines and shops in hopes of reaching Yasaka Shrine. It's really, really easy to get distracted however when there is a shrine every 20 steps though. We found an unmanned building with weird art sculptures and the request that if you take photos that you pay the frog.

Creepy cool art.

Creepy cool art.

We passed a pagoda that I'm sure was important, but entry was barred as it seems most shrines close between 4-5pm. It seems a lot of things shut down early in Kyoto in contrast to Osaka and Tokyo, though Ian and I are sure that is due to how cold it is in Kyoto. We saw a big Buddha statue from afar that initially I wanted to see up close, but after realizing I'd need to walk a bunch to pay to see a statue that I could clearly see from afar I decided once again that my view was "good enough." We continued on and stumbled into a double-temple exhibit. One was Entoku-in and the other was Kodaiji. Entoku-in was created by Nene, the wife of Hideyoshi, to mourn his death. Samurai would pay respects by bringing Nene big rocks for her North end garden. I also got to see (but not photograph) a screen painted by the famous painter Hasegawa Tohaku.

Nene's samurai rock garden

Nene's samurai rock garden

By the time we left Entoku-in and walked over to Kodai-ji it was almost dark, but that's okay because both were lit up at night. While it would be lovely to see the garden during the day, we were surprised with the rock garden being lit up with a 2 minute show projected on the rocks and building. We then walked around the lit bamboo forest which was beautiful and reminded me of Miyazaki's The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Cherry blossoms falling over water before the dragon arrives. 

Cherry blossoms falling over water before the dragon arrives. 

Beautiful bamboo forest, no filters or editing needed.

Beautiful bamboo forest, no filters or editing needed.

We never did make it to Yasaka shrine before closing, but with all we did, it was good enough. Also, I would have liked to see Gion in the day, but again, decided it was good enough and that perhaps the night scenery was closer to the romanticized vision I have of it as there were less tourists and gift shops. Finally we ended our night with dinner at a restaurant in Gion, eating different sticks of yakitori, karaage, and drinking Mikan chuhai. It was probably my favorite meal in Kyoto so far, though none of the food in Kyoto has been bad. Definitely better than good enough.

The third stick was my favorite, wrapped in shiso with plum sauce. 

The third stick was my favorite, wrapped in shiso with plum sauce. 

Day 2 + 3

After staying up late with Joe-San on Monday night, we woke up around 11am and headed out to Senkouji Temple in Hirano. On the walk to the train station from Joe's house it was nice to see the shopping arcade open and full of life. In Japan, arcades are long strips of shops & restaurants, mostly owned by small business owners selling anything from convenience store items, flowers & plants, blankets, towels, souvenirs, clothes, etc. I'd venture to say there are probably never less than 100 shops.

Shopping arcades generally look like this. Also, you must constantly be on the lookout for bicyclists who speed through these walkways. 😖 

Shopping arcades generally look like this. Also, you must constantly be on the lookout for bicyclists who speed through these walkways. 😖 

Anyways, once we made our way to Hirano, it was mostly a residential area, which was nice because we could witness the day-to-day life for Osakans. Such as a little boy who clearly forgot to put out the garbage and had to chase the garbage truck down the road and then beg to be let into his house after failing to complete his task. There was also an older woman paddling her bedding as it dried over her back porch bannister. Another thing about Japan is they usually dry their clothes outside on their porches rather than have dryer machines.

When we arrived at Senkouji it was definitely one of the most unique and beautiful shrines I've seen, even in my last trip. There was absolutely no English on any reading materials, so I imagine it's mainly for Japanese folks. The temple was created sort of as a museum to teach people about the consequences of their actions and to give you a fortune if your decisions in life will lead you to heaven or hell.

So scary!! 

So scary!! 

Ultimately, the real lesson was that you are in charge of your own fate. Because I can't read Kanji, I couldn't do the quiz that would tell me my fate, so I'll just assume I need to live my life in a way that is good to others. :p My favorite part of this temple was the weird underground room that had small statues around a beautiful backlit glass floor. It reminded me of the fairy fountains in Zelda and I just imagined the Great Fairy rising up in laughter.

Please give me Farore's Wind or Din's Fire. Also, could you heal my sore ankle?

Please give me Farore's Wind or Din's Fire. Also, could you heal my sore ankle?

After we left Hirano, we headed to Dotunburi, a large shopping area on the river. When you've seen so many shopping areas in Japan, they stop being exciting. Though I still enjoy the search for unique Gashapon and food. We ended up eating some kushikatsu, deep-fried veggies & meats before embarking on a twenty minute tour of Dotunburi on the river.

LINDSEY!! Check out the climbing wall in the middle of the building in the city! I wish I could climb it with you!   As for the Glico running man, no one really knows the history, but Glico is the company who makes Pocky.

LINDSEY!! Check out the climbing wall in the middle of the building in the city! I wish I could climb it with you! 

As for the Glico running man, no one really knows the history, but Glico is the company who makes Pocky.

This was a nice break for me because the night before I started to feel pain on my right foot/ankle. Honto ni (truthfully), my foot has hurt since day one, but I can't really let it heal because there is too much I want to see in Osaka and Kyoto. I will relax it when I get to Tokyo. After our river ride, we shared a bowl of ramen with Kobe beef. You pour the hot soup over the Kobe beef slices to cook it. The ramen broth was pretty good, could be a touch saltier, but the Kobe slices were just okay to me, honestly. I still prefer chashu pork, though.

Kobe beef cooking in ramen broth.  

Kobe beef cooking in ramen broth.  

After sharing a bowl of ramen we headed to Osaka Bay Area to go to the Osaka Aquarium, which is the second biggest aquarium in the world. I know the saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas, but I beg to differ--it seems everything is biggest  in Japan. Besides boasting a huge aquarium, it also had a huge boat, the Queen Elizabeth the second that I could almost swear was the Titanic. There was also the Tempozan Ferris wheel which was even bigger than the one we rode the night before.

I meant to get a photo of this huge Goliath of a boat, but it seems I was distracted by the smaller boat with lights. 

I meant to get a photo of this huge Goliath of a boat, but it seems I was distracted by the smaller boat with lights. 

While I've been to tons of aquariums, being the daughter of a marine biologist, what made this one unique was that rather than having hundreds and hundreds of different species, each exhibit was focused on a different region of the world and created with the depths that said species were used to swimming in. For example, the area for otters would span about 2 floors, where as the area for seals was 3 floors, and for whale sharks and larger rays and hammerheads was about 4-5 floors. The main tank which housed those rays, sharks and larger fish apparently held 5,000 tons of water. Due to my foot hurting so much, I sat and watched them swim around for about 15 minutes, wishing so greatly to be able to breathe underwater so I could just sit there in the water and watch them endlessly. In fact, it seems I enjoyed this tank so much so, that I didn't even take a photo of it. Oops!

Once we wrapped up our aquarium visit, we headed to Umeda where we were the night before because we wanted to visit the sky garden on the 40th floor. It was lovely, though the name was misleading as there wasn't really a garden, just a 360 view of the city, but that was pretty nice too. Joe-San, our AirBnB host sent us a message to try a delicious Udon restaurant that is famous to tourists and locals alike. So we headed over to the house and met Nick, a Korean gentleman (that happens to take great photos) who was just checked into the home that day. Together we all headed over to the restaurant (I'll get the name of it later). As always, Joe-San was a benevolent host, driving us to our destination, and ordering his favorite item. He has known the owner for about 18 years and the owner and his wife treated us all kindly. We enjoyed chatting with them while they cooked our curry udon meals. They asked us about the election in America and who we would vote for, explaining we were fans of Bernie, the reasons why, and we all had laughs on behalf of the ridiculousness that is Trump. Finally our food arrived and it was even better than I expected. I will admit I was never a fan of udon, but this was curry udon perfection. Not too spicy, noodles the right firmness, and little pieces of fried seaweed and negi.

  By the way, this amazing meal was being enjoyed by us at about 2am. Don't you wish you could eat this in America after a few too many drinks?

  By the way, this amazing meal was being enjoyed by us at about 2am. Don't you wish you could eat this in America after a few too many drinks?

Anyways, while I was absolutely exhausted and sore, I can't think of a better way to end the evening than with good food and new friends.