Red, black and gold

Twenty years ago (less a few months) B and I travelled to Japan for the first time. Kyoto was one of the destinations we visited. Our trip included a visit to Kyoto’s famous golden pavilion at Kinkaku-ji.

Alex, who wasn’t even born then, wanted to see Kinkaku-ji for himself, So we catch a Kyoto City Bus up to the temple.

Like most bus trips in Kyoto it’s slow and crowded. We arrive a little before lunch and without breakfast so everyone is hungry. The paths are full of icy slush from the last night’s snow.

We find a little cafe upstairs of a souvenir shop. It’s nothing special but their curry does the trick.

The grounds of Kinkaku-ji are swarming with tourists, many foreign. But we manage to enjoy the sights of the pavilion, covered in gold leaf, and the surrounds. It would indeed be wonderful to sit in the pavilion and contemplate the lake and the gardens, as it’s noble founder once did.

We cram painfully on to another bus for the ride back and, as always, swear not to catch them again.

Across the river is the Kintetsu Line. A man in a tiny boat waves to tourists crossing the bridge, unfurling his paper umbrella.

We catch the Kintetsu Line to another famous Kyoto sight that only B and I have visited. Lots of tiny shops selling skewers and tofu wrapped sushi line the street up to the Fushimi Inari Taisha.

The complex is famous for its tunnels of red and black torii and the fox statues.

B and I visited in summer and I recall being coated with salt afterwards from the exertion and perspiration.

It is a lot colder today. In fact it starts snowing, huge flakes of white contrasting with the colour of the torii.

There is a lot of walking and a lot of steep steps. Along the way there are also plenty of rest houses selling treats, candles and miniature torii for placement at the many shrines.

B gives up after a while and Alex keeps her company. I go on to complete the full Inariyama route. It is exhausting, but there are some magnificent views over Kyoto. The snow gives the scene a certain magic as well.

Unfortunately, there is a distinct lack of bathroom facilities along the way and I am about to burst when I make it down!

Everyone’s legs are utterly exhausted by the day’s exertions and Kyoto somehow feels chillier than Matsue, despite the lack of heavy snow. But we push ourselves on a little further after returning to Kyoto.

The Gion district is famous for its traditional houses. We walk along Hamakoji-dori until the end, then up to the five storied wooden Hokan-ji pagoda that towers over the area.

From there, the narrow pathway lined with sweets shops and others selling traditional items takes us to the Yasaka Shrine. It is magnificently adorned with paper lanterns. The sight is one of those wonderful surprises you encounter in Japan.

Small food stalls lining the path are just packing up for the day.

We walk back towards the hotel, stopping to eat a dinner of okonomiyaki and yakisoba, disappointing as it was not cooked in front of us, despite the grill on the table.

On the way we head down to the basement of Takashimaya to find cakes and miso.

And so ended our last full day in Japan. I’m anxious about the flight home. We’ve booked direct flights from Cairns bypassing Brisbane, but the weather back home sounds bad. Hopefully visiting all those shrines will bring good luck. Maybe I should have prayed at them…

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