Saturday’s forecast was for yet another hot day but we couldn’t let it dampen our plans (only our armpits). We were heading to one of my favorite places of all: the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine with its winding paths and over 5,000 bright orange tori gates lining the paths behind it.
It has got to be one of the most photographed areas of Japan because it is so impressive. We took the local Keihan Railway and got off at the Fushimi-inari Station and walked only a few minutes to the shrine area.
This shrine was built in the 8th century and dedicated to the god of rice and sake. There are lots of fox statues throughout the shrine’s area and are the area’s mascot. These foxes are known as the messengers of the god of grain, Inari, and are also called Inari, are everywhere, and are featured on everything.
It was mid morning by the time we got to the shrine and though it was hot, the place was jumping with people. We walked and walked and sweated and sweated, stopping along the way to see the pond and take some more photos.
However, when we found out we had only gone about halfway up the mountain, we decided to turn and head back down to the train station. We had seen lots of tori gates, (stone cold) foxes, and people by then, and were ready for lunch with a cold beer.
Though we had gone further than the last time we had visited, there is still half a mountain to explore. I understand there is a monkey park at the top of the mountain, but I also understand it is quite the hot hike to get there. Those monkeys will just have to go unvisited again, I’m afraid.
This is still one of my favorite places in Kyoto to visit though.
We headed back to town and after a wonderful lunch of sliced duck, edamame, and a cold beer back at the restaurant (couldn’t read the name of the place) on the top floor of the OIOI building at the intersection of Shijo and Kawaramachi streets, we were ready for the rest of our planned festivities.
We planned on seeing the pre-parade festivities of the Gion Matsuri.
The Gion Matsuri is a month-long festival in Kyoto and its highlights are the two parades—one on the 17th and one on the 24th featuring impressive wooden floats. I understand there are more floats in the parade on the 17th, but a friend of ours who is from Kyoto and was going to show us around, told us to come on the 24th, so we did.
Though the festival is associated with the Yasaka Shrine in Gion, the parades actually take place on the other side (West, I think) of the Kamo River. We got a map with the exact times the floats would be at each corner of the route from the hotel front desk. The fun thing is to watch the men turn the huge floats at each corner of the route.
These floats are made of wood, (some of which weigh up to 12 tons and are pulled by 50 men) and are constructed without nails, and then decorated in fine tapestries and decorations from Europe, China, India, and of course Japan.
We wandered around the streets where the floats were set-up for public viewing. Each of the neighborhoods surrounding the floats had what appeared to be mini street fairs going on. There were food booths, booze booths, and vendors selling clothes, and all matters of miscellaneous stuff for really cheap. I ended up buying a beautiful pashmina for $4. It had nothing to do with Japan or the festival—I just fell in love with the color and the price. It’s a great time to pick up gifts.
There was music playing and people wandering around until late into the evening. It was quite festive.
It was a great time to visit Kyoto and especially to be in the Gion area. We ended up going home around 11pm so we could get up early the next morning for the parade.