Some Days Are Longer Than Others

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End Sep 02, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Friday, August 20, 2010

Being a tourist is hard work!  I was up at 7 am, checked my email and tried to upload another photo - no luck, got my things together and was at the train station by 9 am.  Don't know exactly what took so long.  I was so proud of myself because I successfully negotiated the commuter train experience by going to the Inari stop on the Nara line.  I followed the other tourists to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.  I am getting smarter (so I think) and checking Anne's notes to make sure that I find the major attraction of the place I am visiting.  I saw the big orange Torii gate at the entrance and then there were the usual temple buildings and open courtyard.  Here there was a lot of construction going on - renovation work I think - and women sitting with children painting pictures of the shrine.  I wandered around a bit - going "ho hum" - and then I stumbled upon the first set of torii gates.  It was pretty impressive.  They were lined up one behind the other as far as you could see.  Fifty million other people and I walked through them.  It was quite an experience.  I thought that this was it, but when the first line ended, there was a double row of smaller torii gates.  Then another set going off in another direction.  I followed them along.  Occasionally  there were side paths with small shrines.  I rechecked Anne's notes and discovered that the dog statues I was seeing were really foxes.  I remember foxes are significant from a Japanese movie I once saw.

There were offerings of various kinds in different places - pieces of paper or wood with fox faces, little dresses I think, pieces of cloth, wooden slats - all kinds of things.  Some people were chanting in front of one of the altars by the lake.  At the lakeside I met a Korean family whose daughter was studying in Japan.  I told them what a lovely time I had in Korea and they thanked me.  The father told me that there were 30,000 torii gates.  I don't think that counts the very small ones on the altars as offerings.  He mentioned that the gates were offerings and the larger ones obviously cost a lot more. The torii gates continued on up the mountain.  A jogger huffed his way past me.  I asked a Spanish or Italian couple if we were near the top but they didn't know.  I decided that it was late and as much as I would love to trudge all the way to the top, I would start back at this point.  I think I passed 29,000 gates on my way up.  On one of the off-shoots, I ran into a forest path with bamboo and cedar I think that was being harvested.  The wood piles were all covered with beige plastic wrapping.  Bow-tied too.  Not really, but almost.

It was already past 1 pm and I really wanted to see some other things because my time in Kyoto was running out.  I got the train back to Kyoto Station, took the #100 bus.  I just missed one as I arrived so I was first in line.  A young woman asked me where I was going and gave me her one-day bus pass.  Wow...this made up for the one I used and only got one ride out of...for some unknown reason.  The #100 bus passes a lot of tourist sites and announces what stops have English.  So except for people talking and babies crying, I could tell when to get off....of course, I was here yesterday, so it was easier.  I decided I could only allot 1 hr at each place since it was already after 2 pm.  I managed to snag a lunch of a roasted green tea ice cream cone at Kyoto station.

First I went to the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts.  It took awhile to find the exhibition - it was in the basement.  There were representatives of all the major crafts Japan and especially Kyoto is famous for - textile dying, metal work, woodwork, lacquer ware, et al.  There was an entire exhibit devoted to fans and they were gorgeous.  There were 2 craftsmen still at work:  a woodworker and a box maker who was chatting animatedly with a young woman.  It was definitely a worthwhile museum to visit.  Photographs were not allowed at most of the exhibits.

Next I went to the Heian Shrine which was across the street.  Lots of orange (or vermilion) here too!  There was a large open courtyard....very hot to cross in this weather.  I was trying to find the garden and did find it.  In the beginning, there really wasn't a hint of how large and varied it was.  My first impressions were about the gardening aspect because they had trees propped up with pieces of wood or bamboo.  They had trellises for other plants to climb on or be confined by.  There were gardeners at work watering the plants.  I have become obsessed with trying to sneak photos of gardeners at work so I added a few more to my collection.  After a few twists and turns, I was at a lake with lily pads and twisted tree trunks framing views of the other side.  The signs were a little confusing to me because they allowed you to go either way around the lake but only intended that you go around half of it.  Of course, I can't do that because I can't bear to miss a photo op.  After backtracking on one path, I turned up at another lake - this one with a pagoda and bridge so of course I had to walk all around that one too.  Eventually I reached the end and as much as I would have liked to linger, I had to push on.

My last stop -and now it was already 4:45-was the  Kyoto Handicrafts Center.  This looks like one of those places that tour buses drop off their charges to satisfy their shopping urges.  I hadn't really done any shopping since I was in Japan and not really much in Korea either so it was long overdue.  I wished I had picked up one or two things I saw at the museum gift shop because I didn't find them here.  There were lots of kimonos and yukatas, pearls, t-shirts, etc.  I need to exercise deliberation because i am not exactly sure how I will carry extra stuff.  I should go for the pearls - small, relatively light.  I think of the things I have lugged around and am amazed.

Well, shopping done, I wandered around looking for the bus stop I used yesterday but for some reason, it wasn't there anymore.  I went back to where I got off the bus earlier.  I waited.  I let a #5 that was going to Kyoto Station go by twice because it had tickets and that's where I had to pay twice (maybe).  No #100 came.  I think because it is a tourist bus, maybe it stops after 5 pm when all the sites close.  So I took the #5.  A bunch of Spanish tourists got on and were laughing and giggly.  We went to the station, I showed the driver my pass, and off I went with nothing more to pay.  I don't really understand these buses.

After being smug about knowing my way around the station now, I got lost again trying to find a restaurant I had seen when I bought my train ticket.  I went back to restaurant row to the place I first went to and had a different sushi combo.  It was equally good and I was satisfied.

I have some reflections on style.  I can't remember whether I mentioned anything before.  I feel really clunky and unfashionable with my hiking shoes and socks on.  I was better off in my flip-flops but I got a blister wearing them.  The young women in their teens and twenties- and it seems as if they are the majority- wear very pretty clothes and especially shoes.  Very many wear high heels of all sorts, some very high.  There really aren't many in trainers or earthy shoes like birkenstocks.  There doesn't seem to be an athletic look or crunchy granola look.  The guys don't look that differently dressed but they also have a bit of a fashion streak at times with high leather moccasin type footwear.  I saw one young man on the train in the am changing his socks and putting on his tie.  His tie was still a little crooked when he was done - a mirror would have helped.  That surprised me.  Oh, yes, and these young women are doing the same walking as I in the garden and temple grounds, and even up some of the garden their high heels  - maybe not the ones with stilettos though.

My other observation - one that came to me today as I was riding on the bus on a long stretch through the city - is that I was surprised that there is a lot of ugliness in the city.  There are some lovely buildings - some of the new architecture and some of the old-style wooden homes or ones patterned on the old style.  But there are a lot of not very pleasant looking buildings and wires hanging bunched up between the buildings.  Somehow I never expected to see this.  I think of Japan and I think of ikebana and the tea ceremony, precision in electronics and automobiles, cherry blossoms and wood cuts and calligraphy...and, of course, kimonos.  None of these are the least bit ugly.  Not to be hard on the Japanese though.  I can't blame them for ugliness any more than the rest of us. 

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