It's not just that our hotel is owned by a right-wing revisionist who thinks that comfort women were voluntary workers employed to help quell the desires of the barbarian Koreans, although he totally does and I read it in the propaganda in our hotel room desk. It's that the shower is terrible. And that's not just because its two settings are "off" and "sandblaster," although they are, or that the ceiling is too low, although it is. It's that there's piping or something in the shower area ceiling that drops half of it about 10 cm lower than the rest so what head space I have, I can't really use.
Somehow, I managed to shower and wash my hair and schoolpsychnerd
and I went to the train station to find some breakfast, since among its many sins, our hotel also
doesn't have breakfast of any kind. After a while wandering around trying to find a place that didn't have a bunch of ham or bacon, the hip modern breakfast foods of Japan, we settled on Lotteria Burger, a fast food joint I willingly admit I only really like because it's Japanese. I got the 絶品チーズバーガーワイド ("Perfect cheeseburger wide"), which didn't quite live up to its name but was worth the ¥600 I paid for it.
Then we took the subway, came up at Kyoto City Hall and, well...
The tree is what really got me.
When we came on the lion dance last night, I went online to figure out what was going on. It turns out that I had read the banners at the entrance of Yasaka-Jinja correctly. The entire month of July is the Gion Matsuri, and while a major portion of the festival is the parade that takes place on the 17th, dating back to 869, there's another parade on the 24th that's a few centuries old. This is that parade. It's ten floats that aren't used in the main parade and a few smaller groups walking by, and what floats they are.
Some floats--actually 神輿 (mikoshi
, "portable shrines")--were wheeled, but several we saw were carried by dozens of men (everyone actually marching in the parade was a man), and when they reached the intersection, they would spin the float around a few times before continuing on in the new directions. If it was one of the gigantic floats like the ones I have pictured above, the people riding it would coordinate the movements of the people pulling the ropes to turn it without it tipping over, and all the while musicians played flutes and cymbals and drums. It was amazing.
After the last float passed us by, we went back down into the shipping arcade connected to the station to get a chocolate-covered croissant that schoolpsychnerd
had seen on the way in and some medicine for schoolpsychnerd
's stomach. That accomplished, we walked south a bit to the private train line that led down to Fushimi-Inari Shrine, though not before taking a quick detour along the Kamogawa.
Ducks on Duck River.
You probably know about Fushimi-Inari even if you've never heard the name. If you've ever seen those pictures of rows and rows of shrine gates going up the mountain, spaced so closely that they're almost like walking into a tunnel, well, that's Fushimi-Inari.
We got there before aaron.hosek
, who was planning on joining us, so we ducked into Kanoko Cafe across the tracks and bought an overpriced matcha float and waffle for the right to sit in the air conditioning while we waited. Unfortunately, aaron.hosek
accidentally got on an express train and was carried off into parts unknown, so after an assurance from him not to wait, schoolpsychnerd
paid and started our walk down the streets leading to the shrine.
The street up was a bit like ninenzaka
outside of Kiyomizu-dera crossed with a festival, with a lot of tiny shops selling traditional tourist kitsch plus festival foods. Then we passed through a giant orange torī and saw red lanterns everywhere, a stone staircase, and beyond that, the rows of torī
leading up Mount Inari.
At the bottom things were pretty bustling and crowded, but as we walked further and further up the mountain, the crowds thinned out a bit, and where they didn't thin out, they got quiet. People would occasionally stop and take pictures, or say something to their friends, but mostly it was just climbing a mountain to the sound of crows and cicadas, surrounded by the orange of the torī and an endless green beyond.
About a third of the way up, we came to a mountain lake:
There was a map here of the entire mountain, showing all the gates, the smaller shrines, and how much we had left to go, which was quite a lot. If we had more time, and if schoolpsychnerd
hadn't been feeling kind of sick, we might have tried to hike all the way to the stop of the mountain. But she is feeling sick, and anyway, we already hiked one mountain this trip. There's no need to do another one.
We also saw a guy wearing a t-shirt that said:
"My soul has been corrected. I have what I need."
...which I would love
to get for myself if I knew where he found it. But more directly relevant, there were a ton of tiny shrines scattered about the mountain:
Shrines all around
On the way down we bought a small kitsunemikuji
, a good-luck fox, and some amazake
from a shop that was almost certainly also someone's home--小森由夫, the nameplate said, "Komori Yoshio"--right on the edge of where Kyoto ends and the mountain begins. They served it cold for ¥50 more, which we gladly paid, and then when they brought it out, it came with a tiny spoon and crushed ginger to mix in before drinking. After climbing up a third of a mountain, it was exactly what we needed.
I haven't had this in years. Delicious.
You can buy amazake
starter kits for the rice online, and now that I'm reminded how good it is, we're absolutely going to try that.
At the base of the mountain we met aaron.hosek
, who had gone halfway to Ōsaka and come all the way back, but had an injured knee and didn't want to climb too much of Mount Inari. We hopped on the JR train coming back from Nara, taking advantage again of our JR passes, and went back to Kyoto Station for lunch, where xoDrVenture
, who had stayed behind to do laundry, met us for lunch at Katsukura
, which I didn't realize was so amazing when we went there, but which was definitely worth the ¥2980 I paid for the beef filet katsu set meal.
Lunch done, we tried to walk over to Sanjūsangendō, but because we had gotten started so late after a late lunch, by the time we got there, it was 4:45 p.m. and the gates had been closed to visitors for 45 minutes, so we split off--three of us heading back to the train station and one heading back to his Air BnB. After a stop at 7/11 to get cash, and another stop at a currency exchange, we went back to the hotel so schoolpsychnerd
could rest a bit before her birthday dinner and I could hand-wash some laundry.
Around 7 p.m., we met up at Kyoto Station to take the bus to Gion and Maharajah, and after a brief adventure where we accidentally took the bus going the wrong way and had to switch to the other bus, we did make it and not too late. We ate delicious Indian food, talked about music, the economic plight of
snake people, movies, and politics, and came up after dinner to find the final part of the Gion Matsuri parade--returning the mikoshi
Lots of chanting not evident in this photograph.
We stayed and watched it long enough for it to pass by--tropicanaomega
even got a hachimaki
from one of the marchers--then we went to go find a karaoke place that was open. Right as we did, the one friend who hadn't been able to make it to dinner said she was available and asked what we were doing, so we left the place we were about to check in and headed back toward the station. One person peeled off there because he was staying closer to Yasaka-Jinja, and that caused a bit of a chain reaction, coupled with schoolpsychnerd
's stomach hurting. Eventually we decided to try again tomorrow, after the Tenjin Matsuri, and headed off for our respective beds.
Steps taken: 20296