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2019 - Japan - Day 4

Today we planned to be up early to get to Fuhimi Inari Taisha to beat the crowds, so typically with the jet lag it was gone 8.30 am before I woke up. I laid for another 20 minutes before waking Karen. Given the size of the room we could only get ready in shifts so she grabbed the bathroom whilst I caught up with the news on the laptop. Breakfast today was a banana, apple and cheese horseshoe roll thing we had bought yesterday. With that inside me and a rucksack on my back we set off for the subway station to catch the train to Inari. We followed the crowd to Fujumi Inari Taisha. There were lots of people there as it one of the main tourist hotspots. At the entrance is the main shrine, but what everyone comes for are the 1000 bright orange gates that lead all the way up the mountain. At the beginning it was quite crowded and difficult to get any decent photos. However the higher we climbed, the steeper it got and the crowds thinned out considerably. The challenge was how high could I get Karen to climb with her knee and foot problems. I would like to have got half way up the mountain to the viewpoint but I was conscious of how much more we had planned for the day and didn’t want to risk any problems with her. We turned around once we reached a point where we did have a view down over Kyoto. We had been climbing upwards for about 45 minutes at that point and it took us 30 minutes to get back down again. The gates were pretty splendid though and worth the climb.

Despite it being a Sunday there were an awful lot of schoolchildren obviously being marched along on school trips to the different shrines. We exited through a long line of street food, none of which looked appetising or even edible to us. We bought some water from one of the many drinks vending machines that are everywhere. As yet I have not been brave enough to buy the water sold under the brand name of ‘Sweat’. We were unsure if it was because it was a Sunday or for any other reason, but there were absolutely loads of young couples and families who were all wearing kimono’s. They all looked so smart and colourful. Karen thought they looked uncomfortable and I thought I would just look like I was wearing a dressing gown if I wore one. From Inari we used our rail pass and caught the JR local train up to Gion. At the station exit we came across another Starbucks so would bought drinks and rolls for lunch which were very acceptable. This is the tradition Geisha area of Kyoto where they Geisha first started. It was very busy as well as we followed the crowds to the first famous shrine. By now I was all shrined out as they were started to all look the same to me. There was a wedding taking place when we arrived so we stood and watch the bridal party having photos taken, They all looked so smart and proud in what we assumed was traditional dress. We didn’t bother with seond big shrine here, as most of it is being reconstructed for the 2020 Olympics. Perhaps praying has been accepted as an Olympic event, maybe they are holding the gymnastics or something there instead. Instead we found the famous street where all the original tea houses were sited. It was all very pretty (although Disney would have done it better). Sadly I won’t be able to try out one of these ceremonies as when we saw in one you have to kneel at the table. My legs won’t go into that position at all, not that I would particularly want green tea with no milk. As we made our way to a different subway station to take us to our final destination for the day I mused on what my Dad would have thought of us being here in Japan. He wouldn’t necessarily approve and I can absolutely understand that, but then he wouldn’t have try to stop me. For me, though that was all a different time and place.We must never forget but we must move on. People cannot continue to pay for the sins of their fathers. Juxtaposition. Just before we entered the station to get to our final destination in our whistle stop tour of Kyoto in a day, there was a MacDonalds so Karen thought she deserved an ice cream and bought herself an Oreo Macflurry. The ticket machines in the station did not have an English option so we were getting confused until a local chap stepped in to help us. From the map we were looking at it was not obvious that to get to Arasiyama, (our destination) we needed to change trains which is why we couldn’t select the option we needed. We were very pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Arasiyama as it seemed a really pretty little place spread over two rivers. Karen was excited to visit the Snow Monkeys so we headed there first. We paid our 550 yen admission fee (another place that only took cash, for an advanced nation this seems so backward) and started the climb. The monkeys have free roam of the mountain, but the main viewing point and where they congregate is the very top. This is a very steep and a long hard 25 minute climb in 29C temperature. Karen was determined to make it, and we both needed to stop a few times for breathers along with everyone else making the ascent. The effort and strain was so worth it. The sun was glorious at the top and the view magnificent even though we were only 160m above Kyoto looking down. And of course there were the monkeys who just nonchalantly wandered amongst the few visitors who had made it to the top quite late in the day. There were a few wardens around, although it was not really clear if they were there to protect the monkeys or the people.

There were many signs saying that you were not allowed to approach them, or feed them, or rather strangely look them in the eyes! They were very cute looking. The best bit was there was shop in a cage. In the shop you could purchase food that you fed the monkeys through the cage. It wasn’t until afterwards I realised how ironic that all was, a kind of juxtaposition. The monkeys were free outside whilst we were inside. A right and proper role reversal. I couldn't request the opportunity and bought some sliced banana to feed them. They stuck their little hands through the cage and gently took a piece each time from my hand. It was delightful although Karen didn’t want to do it.

After going back outside to rejoin the monkeys we sat on a bench to admire the view sitting alongside the monkeys before starting the 15 minute climb down. From here we walked to the Bamboo Forest which I was keen to see. This was impressive as well, with the most enormous bamboo trees either side of the path. We walked all the way through the forest to the train station only disappointingly to find it closed, meaning a 20 minute walk back in the other direction to another station.

By now we were both really tired. We had been on the go almost non stop for 8 hours and walked miles both up and down in very warm weather. The short ride back to Kyoto central was a welcome respite. As our time in Kyoto was short we had wanted to cram in as much as possible, to see if we could. spare a day to we take a day trip to Hiroshima, but even by our standards we had crammed so much into one day. Once off the train we headed to the shopping mall where we had a good old cup of tea in Starbucks, bought some provisions for breakfast and the walked into Tony Roma’s for dinner. We were greeted like long lost friends and virtually all the staff came over to say hello again. We both had a burger which was very good. Wearily we the made our way back to the Hotel for the night.

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