Kyoto - Fushimi Inari Taisha

We spent an amazing 36 days in Japan! We did a lot of traveling, and we went back and forth between a lot of locations, cities, and districts. To make things easier to read and write, we have grouped everything in our travels into city locations and not exactly by time. The Japan list of contents so far can be found here!

Welcome to Kyoto! We were all over the place in Kyoto, visiting it twice, a week apart, during our time in Japan. The places we visited in Kyoto are:

* Hiiragiya -Hiiragiya Ryokan, Maruyama Park, and Nanzen-ji Temple
* Fushimi Inari-taisha
* Nishiki Market - Nishiki Market and the Philosopher's Path
* Tsubara House - Tsubara House, Exploring Kyoto, and Gion District
* Macaques and Temples - Arashiyama, Ginkakuji, and Kiyomizudera Temple
* Odds and ends and final thoughts on Kyoto.

Breakfast at Hiragiya is offered as an "American" version (eggs and coffee) and "Japanese" version (fish and tea). We planned to have a Japanese breakfast later on in our travels, so we tried out the "American" version of Japanese breakfast!
Even the breakfast was an amazing feast. One thing I missed the most about Japanese meals is the amount of variety they offer without making you feel overfed.
We stayed long enough to sample each option which you are offered, a plain omelette with tomato sauce and bacon, scrambled eggs and bacon, or a soft boiled egg and bacon. Each is served with a banana and orange, tomatoe juice and milk, salad, and of course coffee!

Our morning we planned to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha was overcast and rainy. For those of you who don't know Fushimi Inari Taisha or the Fushimi Inari Shrine is home to the thousands of torii gates which cover a large network of trails in Mount Inari. It is one of the top attractions for foreign tourists visiting Japan. The best part about rain is, it clears out the tourist. The second best part of rain is that its never as bad as it seems. We had the very popular site almost to ourselves with 1 or two visitors popping up as the rain started to clear in the late afternoon.

A short train ride away from the heart of Kyoto it is quick and easy to get to, however, be ready to walk. There are many many stairs, and the journey can take 2-3 hours depending on your pace.
We arrived just in time to catch a glimpse of the shinto Priests en route to perform their morning ceremony at the shrine.
Pilgrams entering.
Fox statues are everywhere along the way, as they are considered the messenger of Oinari. Offerings of rice, sake, and other foods are given to appease the kistune messengers. The foxes are expected to plead with Inari on the behalf of those who leave an offering. They also serve as a guardian at the demon gate warding off evil kimon. The red bibs that they wear are believed to ward off sickness, protection against evil forces, and are strongly associated with the protecting children from these evil forces. If you look closely at some statues you will see a smaller statue with it.
Our journey through the torri gates passed this view which we took the time to take pictures of. First during the rain.
Then after it cleared.
Entrance gates are most often guarded by Shishi lion-dogs. It is their jobs to block the path to evil. They are normally in pairs, and one will have its mouth open, this one is named Kara-shishi,
while the other has it shut and is named Koma-inu. "Ah" (open mouth) and "N" (aka "un" and closed mouth) are the first and last letters of the Japanese alphabet respectively. While that doesn't seem like much, it is important to understand that these two sounds represent alpha and omega, birth and death, the beginning and the end.
Koma-inu also has a small pupper ;3
You will find this fox holding a key in its mouth, at the main gate of the Fushimi Inari shrine
We passed a small event as we were leaving the site. Not really sure what was going on, but it seemed interesting at the time!

Dinner options at Hiiragiya also include SHABU-SHABU!
We were pretty excited to see shabu-shabu offered, as it wasn't easy to locate a place that serves it. It consists of thinly sliced beef that is cooked piece by piece in a vegetable pot of boiling broth. The meat and vegetables are then dipped in a sauce and eaten. Our assigned Nakai cooked the meat for us, but when she left the room to get more items we cooked a few ourselves! It was a bit richer and sweeter than expected, but still tasty!