Thursday, May 22, 2008

Torii! Torii! Torii!

2 things, first an apology for the pun on the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! and next, please disregard my message yesterday about no longer taking photos of Torrii Gates to shrines... not like I had much choice with my destination this morning!

After checking out of my hotel and locking up my luggage at Kyoto station (JR may be giving me a discount, but the buggers got 800 yen out of me today for lockers!) I headed on down the line to Inari and the famed Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Fushimi Inari Taisha is best known for its thousands upon thousands of Torii gates, winding their way through the mountain side.

The shrine was originally established as a shrine to rice and sake I believe, but has now switched to an all encompassing business shrine, with each of these torrii being paid for by companies\individuals wishing for good fortune in business ventures. Of course, if you don't pay up, here's what happens... lol

Each gate is inscribed with the donor's name\company name and also perhaps a message or wish? I see some more elaborate carvings than others...

Now, while the path up the mountain was nice and shaded by both trees and the gates, it was still a climb up a mountain. As I sat near the peak taking a break and wondering how much further I'd be climbing up, I was immediately humbled by these gentlemen going up the hill with a log on their shoulders. Oh yeah! I guess these gates have to come up here somehow? This being Japan, I'd assumed there was some magical stair climbing machine that did all the work... apparently not.

I'd brought my mini tripod along with me today, foreseeing the need for low-lights shots in the forest... and I manged to snap a shot of myself! The first on this solo trip of mine... but not the last...

The interesting thing about walking through these gates is that they're only inscribed on the way back down hill, so on the way up, all you see is orange... but on the way down, you see all the characters.

They even had a bit of a waterfall, where I unfortunately was unable to get a good vantage point for a shot...

Now this shrine up here in the hill above Kyoto is dedicated to the fox, Inari in Japanese, which is apparently the key keeper for the rice store house... interesting. This means that every once in a while, you'll run into a statue of a fox staring out at you.

It was certainly an interesting place to walk around for the morning. After a quick train ride back to Kyoto to pick up my bag and a run down to Nara for lunch, I then decided on the spur of the moment to visit Horyiuji, which is just one stop from my hotel. This temple is home to the world's oldest building, the last reconstruction of which dates back 1300 years! This is the inner gate to the temple.

And one of the guardians within the gate, again... over a thousand years old!

According to my volunteer guide, who grabbed me on the way in, 4 of these posts were made using a single tree, which is a problem because there aren't such behemoths out here any more if something were to need replacing. The construction method used was dovetailing, which means no nails! Everything just kind of fits into place.

Here I am with my guide for the tour around the temple. This gentleman has traveled and lived abroad quite a bit, and did a great job of telling me the back story of these buildings and their cultural significance to Japan as one of the first established Buddhist temples.

One of the things I learned from my good friend is that dragons here are water guardians, and thus are used to protect buildings from fire... whoda thunk?

And finally for this evening, my view at the moment at Yougendou, an AMAZING guesthouse a couple of stops down from Nara.

And that's that! I've been invited out to dinner by an Aussie couple staying here tonight and I'll join them before grabbing a beer at the bar also run on the Yougendou grounds and turning in for the night. I've scheduled an 8AM breakfast tomorrow morning... so gotta get up early! Gnight!


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