Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 19 – Kyoto)

Wednesday, Nov 09 2022 (Day 19)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island, Enoshima Shrine
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hannō
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-2022秋, Moto-Yawata
ට  Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022 – Akasaka, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya Halloween
ට  Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022 – Shinjuku, Sophia University
ට  Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, Kabukichō
ට  Day 13 – Thursday, Nov 03 2022 – Shinjuku Loft
ට  Day 14 – Friday, Nov 04 2022 – Shinjuku, Hanazono/Asakusa Tori no Ichi, Sensōji
ට  Day 15 – Saturday, Nov 05 2022 – Nagano, Zenkōji
ට  Day 16 – Sunday, Nov 06 2022 – Ueda Sanada Matsuri, Ueda City, Sanada Shrine, Nagano
ට  Day 17 – Monday, Nov 07 2022 – Zenkōji, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward
ට  Day 18 – Tuesday, Nov 08 2022 – Otsu, Omi Jingu
ට  Day 19 – Wednesday, Nov 09 2022 – Fushimi Inari, Kasho​ji, Tofukuji, Shōrinji (You are here)

I swear that my account of what happened today was true to the best of my knowledge and not embellished. How’s that for a preface?

It had become a standard morning routine by now, but breakfast was a bento box and a piece of fresh bread from the bakery next to it, as always.

I also took the opportunity this morning to take some pictures of the house, included here in a gallery. And then, it was time to head off to seek out an adventure!

Fushimi Inari Taisha

So how Akira did things is that during the trip home or dinner the night before, or breakfast in the morning, he would ask me about my plans for the following/same day and suggest/help me with an itinerary of where to go for the day for an effective sightseeing route. Basically he suggested certain temple circuits (since that was one of the things I said I wanted to see/visit) and said that he would drop me off at the start of one of the circuits in the late morning or whenever I wanted to go, and pick me up from JR Kyoto Station in the evening. Today’s itinerary was going to include Fushimi Inari and Tofukuji in the south, and then Arashiyama in the west.

I never made it that far though. Despite being a tourist myself, I don’t like being around masses of other tourists, especially when they’re busy breaking all sorts of no-picture rules in sacred areas and taking 10 variation selfies of the same picture in slightly different angles as though trying to make up for shallowness with sheer quantity, and blocking other pedestrians as they do so. Virtually all the places that Akira would suggest over the three days were famous places, and at this point famous also equated to busy and I can only take so much of that at once. So I usually veer off course and end up somewhere else altogether, which is what happened today, tentative suggested schedule be damned.

For starters, although (or perhaps because) I had already taken the train to Inari Station and walked up to the shrine yesterday, so I was familiar with the route, he insisted on driving me practically to the front torii of the shrine today before dropping me off. This was to save time, but also kind of felt more like I was “experiencing” Kyoto from inside a tourist bus than getting to places on my own two feet, instead of making my own pilgrimage there. Due to this, I didn’t even enter Fushimi Inari through the main shrine gate today, like I did the day before. It didn’t feel right. Instead, I went around the side of it and into the temple.

This is the central temple altar area where one can donate 100 yen and request a blessing/make a wish. I was here yesterday for the night ceremony and could not see a thing — it’s much clearer during the day, naturally. The raised dais on the right was a sort of platform where people were seated on cushions and watching the ceremony from last night, I had not seen any temple with that structure up until this point (although I would see another a couple days later in Yasaka Shrine):

I made my donation, like I had for several other temples, but while I usually wished for the safety of my friends and family, or occasionally for myself too, this one didn’t feel right somehow. I was vaguely aware that Inari was the kami for agriculture, since the previous day’s rituals were related to that, but a lot of what I knew about this shrine was also influenced by the Inari Kon Kon anime, which portrays Fushimi Inari as a cute and somewhat clumsy “power of friendship” human character and includes a number of characters, including playful and whimsical fox familiars and other gods. My mental image of Fushimi Inari was one of a trickster character, what with all the foxes.

So with all that in my mind, my wish for Fushimi Inari was as follows:

“Hello Fushimi Inari. Please play a trick on me today. Nothing hurtful, please.”

Not thinking much of it, I then went off to get my goshuin from the front office — they only had sticker ones, which I’m not a fan of, but I understand, the front of the shrine is very popular. I picked up two, a double page one (which, like the Zenkōji one, I didn’t want to bend so I ended up not putting into my book), and a single page one, which I stuck in later that night thanks to Akira lending me some glue.

After this, I headed off behind the temple toward the famous line of torii arches that led up the trail toward the top of the mountain.

There were tons of tourists here, stopping every few minutes to take another selfie, as though random pictures like that means anything. I was getting quite annoyed by then. But there were also a couple of side paths leading off to the side, and I took one of them that led to a shrine visible from the main torii gate path.

Fancy. However, the path actually continued on past the path as well, deeper into the bamboo forest, and I noticed that although a number of people did veer off to the shrine, no one actually went along the path further than that, since it led away from the torii gate, I suppose. So I went down that path.

This path quickly gave way to a forest trail, as I followed it along dirt and grass and over tree roots. There was no real danger of getting lost — the path also had fences on both sides, and was completely linear except for a couple of places where it split into two.

From the minute I went past the little shrine though, I was completely by myself, and this part of the bamboo forest was both serene and majestic.

Well, besides the fences, there were obviously signs of life here and there, like an altar in the woods or that random motorcycle above, and now and then I heard like there was someone walking on some other nearby trail. Didn’t see anyone though.

Eventually, the path narrowed and became weird and overgrown, and ended at a six foot high cliff that went down to another path below at a 45 degree angle. Seriously what the heck. I didn’t take a picture of this but I did manage to shimmy down because the fence that I was following also led downwards at the 45 degree angle, so I held on to that as I inched down.

Regardless, at that point I had two ways to go, so I went left. On this path, I eventually met two tourists who were as surprised to see me as I was to see them, heading in the other direction, as well as a local or two eventually. There was also a sign at what I think was a 3-way split in the road, with one of the other two paths on the same elevation as the path I had arrived on, but which seemed to have a sign that indicated that it was closed, although the path looked open and accessible. The other path led to some stairs leading downwards to some building, but there was also a pole with a sign attached to it by string with a message that I interpreted as it saying that this path led to Fushimi Inari or its peak, that pointed in that direction, even though it was headed downwards. I noticed that the sign was flimsily attached and could be spun around the entire pole anyway so where it pointed was a little suspect, but I was fully invested in this adventure anyway and wasn’t going to ignore fate pointing me in that direction.

That building turned out to be a collection of little shrines and altars with dozens upon dozens of foxes.

I had no idea who it belonged to and still don’t. But I donated to and prayed at one of them anyway, specifically this one:

I also took this picture soon after that, and this one (弘法ヶ瀧) does at least appear on Google Maps as a mappable landmark:

Anyway, I continued wandering east from there, barely seeing anyone along the way. Lots of farmland and stuff though, I was obviously outside of shrine territory at this time, and walking through the countryside.

It’s worth noting at this point that ever since I started off along the random trail back on the Fushimi Inari path by myself, it felt like I was off on my adventure, and once I was past the little shrine above, I kept having this mental image of me walking along the road with two neon-blue fox ears and a neon blue tail, both made out of flickering fire, as I went along. It felt like I was walking along the path with some purpose, though I had no idea what as yet other than exploring the unknown.

The kami were still watching over me, there was a random dead snake on the road in my path:

And a big crow watching me and cawing loudly from the top of a tree:

I eventually found a signboard near a school in the middle of nowhere, showing just how far I had gone off course. The red torii gates on the left were Fushimi Inari, and the red 現在地 sign in the middle right was where I currently was.

I also remember running across a woman sweeping the side of one of the roads in the middle of the countryside and wondering how she got there and why she was sweeping the quiet road. It was kind of near the school but not quite by it.

Kashoji Temple

I eventually rejoined society some distance to the southeast of Fushimi Inari Shrine, near a little temple called Kashoji Temple (actually Kashō​ji Temple, but Google doesn’t really give any meaningful results for this temple when searched that way). I actually ended up on a road behind and above the temple at first, and couldn’t find a way in from that side, so it seemed weird at first, but I finally found an entrance in from the southwest corner of the temple.

The temple was a little structure sandwiched in by houses in a residential area, with its southwestern entrance bordering a really narrow alley leading south to the main road, and a slightly larger residential road leading east to another road that I came in upon. There was a small, but well-maintained garden within, as well as a number of artifacts and trinkets on display.

I donated the usual 100 yen, shook the dangling rope (it went “bong!” against the gong), and prayed for safety. I looked at the reception office, but it seemed unoccupied, so I moved on, heading out of the temple, south through the alley, and toward the nearby train station. Even got stopped by a train crossing again on the way:

It was very idyllic, there were several students wandering the area on their way home from school, adults asleep in their vehicles at the side of the road, etc. I was about two-thirds of the way to the nearby Fujinomori Station, which was a 15 minute walk away, but I felt unfulfilled somehow. It might have been materialistic, but I wanted a memento of my trek through the countryside, and although there was no one at the reception desk back at the temple, there were obviously trinkets and things for sale there. I was hoping more for a goshuin than anything else, since that seal acts as a badge of sorts of my journey, but whatever would have worked.

I reasoned that maybe the shrine attendant was out for lunch (as the shrine obviously doubled as a house and I had arrived at the shrine at 12:47 pm) and would be back now, so even though it was a bit of a trek back with potentially zero payout, I decided to retrace my steps back to the temple.

There, I found that the window was still empty, but when I pressed my nose up to the glass, I saw a woman at a table further back in the room and she looked up and saw me as well and came over. I asked if the temple had any goshuin available/for sale, and she said yes. She showed me a couple of really pretty ones, and that I could have a sticker version for 300 or a hand-drawn version for 500. They were gorgeous and I like hand-drawn ones anyway, so I opted for the 500 one, but the decision of which of the two seals to pick took a while as they were really, really pretty. Eventually I picked one though, and she took my book and donation and waved me around the side and of the window to where the door was.

She invited me into her house itself, sat me down at a small table next to her own drawing table, and gave me a couple of goshuinchō books to look through. One of them was of regular seals, I wasn’t familiar enough with them to know if they were from the temple or from her own journeys around or something. The other one was a smaller book with a collection of really pretty goshuin from the temple itself, apparently different ones that Kashoji Temple gave out through the year, they were all colourful and gorgeous and consisted of animals and flowers on them and varied by month and season.

The attendant lady made small talk as she drew my goshuin and then waited for it to dry, and I told her in my broken Japanese that I was from Canada and would be here for five weeks or so in all. She seemed interested in this and how i ended up here, so once she returned me my book, I reached into my bag and handed her one of my Edmonton scenery postcards.

She seemed very happy at this, and despite my protestations, she gave me a pre-drawn version of the temple’s other current seal to paste into my book later as well. She also asked me to write my name down a slip of paper, which I did, and she then put it together with the postcard. I requested to know her name as well so she pulled out another slip of paper and wrote her name and stamped it with her temple contact details on it.

We then chatted for a little bit more before I left on my way. Her name’s Takaya Hisako (高屋久子) and she seemed to love drawing on top of being really good at it — that’s obvious from the gorgeous hand-drawn goshuin displayed below. Most temples just do the name of the temple in black calligraphy ink, and then a temple stamp, for their drawn seals, and occasionally sold fancier seals on paper with pre-printed pictures on them, but this one had full out art in different coloured paint on its drawn seals.

This was apparently Fushimi Inari’s “trick”, and yet this temple does not seem to be known at all in terms of either a nice place to visit or a really special goshuin that can be obtained, so my hope is that I can repay her by showcasing how good this seal was. It’s my favourite goshuin in the book by far currently on the strength of the hand-drawn art (called tegaki 手書き or handwritten) alone, and the story and chance meeting with her and her kind generosity just makes it even better.

I will probably scan it better when I get home, but this was the hand-drawn seal that I picked — the entire squirrel is drawn and coloured with paint by hand (which is why it took a while to dry) and looks so great:

And this is the free sticker version of the other available seal during my visit that she gave to me:

No doubt also painted on the goshuinchō if requested for the slightly higher fee, but I couldn’t impose any more upon her kindness at that point. I think these Kashoji Temple goshuin are likely the best, prettiest, and most unique tegaki/hand-drawn/painted goshuin in Kyoto and possibly in Japan though. Or at least they definitely should be up there in a top 10 list. I am going to recommend them to everyone I can, and hopefully return to them someday during a different month/season to visit Takaya-san again (and obtain different seals!)

Tofukuji and Shōrinji Temple

That already made my day, so the rest of the day kind of flew by. Firstly, from Kashoji Temple, I retraced my steps and went to that nearby train station 15 minutes away that I had been walking to when I decided to turn around and return to the temple. This was Fujinomori Station, and I took the Keihan Line from here to Tofukuji Station.

I had lunch in a tiny little eatery in the Tofukuji Station area named Takei Shokudou Higashiyama, it had five seats by a small bar which were occupied by a group of three French tourists, and two low tables with cushions on the floor next to the window, so I was shown to the latter one. I ordered the tofu teishoku (tofu meal set, #9 in the list below) for the bad pun, and it was delicious!

After lunch, I found a vending machine with something under 100 yen for the first time.

It was a street or two off from Tofukuji Station, but I was still full from lunch, so I moved on. Tofukuji Temple itself was pretty huge, though quite a few tourists were around as well, so I didn’t really enjoy it. I found the office for the goshuin, but they only had sticker ones. Still, I claimed one of those, and then wandered around the area.

The best part of this area was probably a quiet cemetery that I found and took a quick walk through, it was a literal dead end down a long road lined with trees and no one else came that way.

The way out and in were lined with some hawkers trying to sell various food souvenirs to the tourists wandering by, or entice them into spending some money at their little restaurant. There was also a little side shrine/garden called Tofukuji Ikkain that apparently is only open during a brief period in the fall that I passed by on the way in, and entered on the way out. They also sold goshuin, though this one had no reception desk at all and it was just an unmanned donation box with a bunch of sticker seals by it. I also picked up one for the journey.

Lastly, on my wanderings around the neighbourhood, I came across Shōrinji Temple and went into it to donate and inquire about their goshuin as well. The lady attendant was very nice but said that they only had pre-drawn papers today, the temple elder who drew tegaki seals was on break today and wouldn’t be available until Saturday, at which point I wouldn’t even be in Kyoto any longer. She was apologetic for it but I said it was no issue and bought a pre-drawn one for the book.

They had a lot of colourful ones, at least! That was my fourth pre-drawn one in a row though, starting with the second Kasenji Temple one, so I was balking at this streak and decided that that was enough.

Evening

I headed back toward Tofukuji Station, hoping to find that vending machine that I had seen earlier, again. I had a picture of it but had no idea how to easily locate it again even though it had GPS location data built into it, without loading up a cumbersome website. A photo map program that Jahandar had suggested in the past came to mind, but I didn’t have it installed. I came to a stop next to a vending machine to try to start looking through chat history for that app, before noticing that that coincidentally was the very vending machine that I was looking for! So I picked up the drink I had been eyeing — a small bottle of hot curry soup for 50 yen. It was.. exactly as described. Drinkable curry with nothing inside. It wasn’t bad to drink though, just weird to experience.

I then took the JR Nara Line from Tofukuji Station back to Kyoto Station. This station was oddly narrow.

I had over an hour before Akira came to pick me up, so I wandered the neighbourhood around Kyoto Station, heading north and walking until it was dark. I ended up taking a train back since I ended up so far north, using the Karasuma Line to get back from Gojō Station to Kyoto Station, where I met Akira.

For dinner, Akira had suggested earlier in the day that he would take me to a bento place that he liked called Bentokoubou, and I had agreed to this. I ended up picking something called the Special Gomoku Kamamashi Bento for 890 yen.

Apparently, the non-special version was cheaper but had lesser sides. Akira was incredulous that I had only managed to visit Fushimi Inari and Tofukuji today and had not gone to Arshiyama, and suggested that I do that tomorrow instead. Even though I could have made it there though, it was late enough after Tofukuji — my curry soup screenshot above was timestamped at 4:11 pm — that I would not have been able to make it to the temples for their seals because many of their counters close at around 4:30 pm or so, and the sunset comes early in Japan this time of year as well.

I spent the evening working on work tickets, though there were so many and I worked so late into the night that I decided to take Thursday off work due to frustration and trying to catch up on sleep (and my blog writing).

Shinkansen Running Total

I have a 21-day JR Pass that kicked in on Nov 05 and should last until the end of my trip on Nov 25. It cost $568 CAD, which cost around 61,769.08 yen, as per Google as of the first writing of this section. So I was curious and wanted to keep a running total — was this thing actually worth it?

That’s what I hope to find out with this section. For the full explanation blurb on this, check this corresponding section of the Day 15 blog post.

Trips

ට  Nov 05 2022 – Asama 611 (Tokyo to Nagano) – U: 7810, R: 8340
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Hakutaka 556 (Nagano to Ueda) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Asama 615 (Ueda to Nagano) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Kagayaki 509 (Nagano to Kanazawa) – 8920 (reserved seats only)
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Thunderbird 24 (Kanazawa to Kyoto) – U: 6490, R: 6820
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Kyoto to Otsukyo) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Otsukyo to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Kyoto to Inari) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Inari to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 09 2022 – JR Nara Line (Tofukuji to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)

Running Total

Unreserved: 27,090 yen
Reserved: 30,590 yen

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