I was incredibly lucky to get a beautiful spring day on my one day in Kyoto. I had been planning to stay longer but I still have so much work to do and I need to make a research trip to Nagoya, as I will be in the next Aichi Triennale. That is this August so I also felt relaxed that I will be back soon and can go see Kyoto again.
I had an incredible day where I felt completely blessed and marvelled that my life had brought me to this beautiful place. I have never understood that phrase “so beautiful it hurts” until now and I can’t really find a way now why that was… or really another set of words to describe the feeling. Looking at nature always leaves me feeling elated joyful, and with a deep sense of satisfaction. This was a different response to the nature of the gardens and buildings of Kyoto. I felt a deep deep sigh and extreme pleasure in the looking, but also a kind of melancholic pain that I was on my own and not experiencing it with friends or family. Kyoto is not a place to go on your own, and mostly I saw people moving around the city in groups.
The thing I came to Kyoto for was the Inari shrine called Fushimi-Inari Taisha; it’s the most spectacular Inari shrine in Japan. I started to become interested in Inari shrines as I was seeing them at the starts of my forests walks. The figure of the fox at the edge of the forest is a symbol (or enactment) of the intermediary between the mortal and the spirit world. For me nature is the spirit world so that these shrines are at the beginning of my communing with nature has had resonance for me.
The feature of the Fushimi-Inari Taisha is its pathway through the forests at the edge of Kyoto where pilgrims walk under 10,000 red/orange Tori. Above are just three of the many pictures I took. Dotted along this route starting behind the main shrine and then climbing into the hills, are several points where there are fox pairs and alters. At the highest point over looking the city there was a semi circle of about 100 alters, all with fox pairs and Tori prayer offerings (second picture above). It was not the last time that day where I thought it was a good thing I had seen Kamakura before Kyoto. Don’t get me wrong Kamakura is very special and has things Kyoto doesn’t; it’s just not on the scale of Kyoto. Also Kyoto’s stone and moss gardens are hard to beat anywhere.
After spending a couple of hours walking the whole trail I head to Southern Higashiyama, which is close to where I was staying at Gojo. At this point I really felt like I had seen so many images of Kyoto but they where not connected with words… like which temple has the famous stone garden? Anyway I went to Kennin-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Kyoto, which has three very beautiful stone and moss gardens (I will post some more pictures either here or on flickr when I get back to free and fast internet). After that it was about 5:30 so I wandered along the streets towards Kiyomizu-dera-, which was an incredible building. I felt like I was in a Kurosawa movie. Then back to my fancy Ryokan to have a beautiful meal, missing Haico with each mouth full.