Monday, 19 August 2013

Fushimi Inari

Increasingly as of late, every time I see a picture of some famous Kyouto sight I find myself thinking "Oh hey, I've been there." Across four visits in twelve years, one way or another I've ended up going to pretty much every single major tourist destination in the city. In fact, Fushimi Inari was basically the last one I had left. With my time here rapidly running out - for the moment - this was to be a sort of swan song for my solo Japan travels, one last box to check off the big list.
I was almost immediately waylaid by a blonde English girl, who was looking for a different station. I helped her find her destination and in the fifteen minutes or so that we spent together, I learned that she was teaching English in Viet Nam, and had come here for a visa run. She was quite interesting; I'd have liked to talk with her more. I'm always fascinated to talk to expats from different countries, especially other Asian countries.

 Hey, does this remind you of anything?

Ordinarily I would have shot this whole area much more extensively, but on this day, the camera angle, subject, and composition was often determined by factors such as where the shade happened to lie, and whether or not I had been standing in direct sunlight for more than zero seconds.
 Foxes! Foxes everywhere! They're messengers, apparently. This one has a key in her mouth.

 Ok, so now we're heading to the main event...
 A ton of gates! Seriously. For some reason I'd been thinking there'd be just one line of them, somewhere. No way. We're talking tens of thousands. There's a mirror on the grounds and blah blah blah, but this is the main event here at this shrine. It also appears at the end of Memoirs of a Geisha, which, though I hate to admit it, is kind of what made me want to come here in the first place.


 See, I told you they were everywhere.
 A branch in the path! Whatever. I didn't know the meaning of either character (both of which recur, together, throughout the complex) off the top of my head, so I just chose one at random. I went with the right one. Judging by the video above, the left is the one where Memoirs was filmed. Damn!
 So if you look down the path, the gates appear to form one solid wall, but if you view them at an angle, you can see the gaps. Now if you're like me, you've wondered just how far apart they actually are. Here's a picture, with my hand for scale. Answer is: It's completely inconsistent. Some are jammed up right against each other, some I could almost squeeze my body between. I hope that was informative for you.
 Couples! Couples everywhere.

 Like I turned out to be a much larger place than I'd anticipated. Come here expecting to invest some time, bring good walking footwear, and prepare for a lot of uphill walking. And don't be afraid to head back down once you've had your fill, because you're never going to explore all the various paths unless you work here.
 Just behind the main shrine area. Wow. Ok. We get it, Fushimi Inari. You like gates.
 After following behind this agriculture fan and his gf for a bit, I decided to explore a side path. After twenty minutes of walking, I was rewarded with fascinating sights such as this:
 Well, ok, also this:
 But, again, also this:

 Also, this. This is either a Shintou god I'm not familiar with or the most ostentatious Buddha I've ever seen. I actually stood there and wished I'd had Stupid Ugly Foreigner with me.

 This is where things got truly arduous. I stopped even bothering to try to take photos. There was nothing but stairs. And gates, which at least provided ample shade, but mostly, stairs. Stairs and stairs and stairs and stairs and stairs. At one point I had to rest because I felt the onset of delirium. But I didn't gave up. And my tenacity was rewarded with...!
 This thing. Yay?
Ok, also this.

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