Torii, Torii, Torii

Kyoto, Day 2

Another slow morning with some toast and jam for breakfast on our Kyoto house. The previous guests left a jar of blueberry jam and orange marmalade. We bought bread at the convenience store around the corner. The kids all loved the bread. It was good quality and very thick. We bought three loaves while we stayed here. Each loaf had five slices of inch thick bread that could really only be destined for toast. A sandwich made from this bread would require a reticulating jaw.

Our destination today was another Shinto shrine. This one had over 10,000 Torii gates. The shrine is dedicated to the goddess of rice and in the shogun days rice was money. Merchants would come to the shrine and donate the Torii gates to bring them good fortune. They gates are lined up along a path that visitors can walk and the site is quite spectacular. We got some amazing photographs and will try and add some to this post later. We started on the path and finally turned off to go back to the start when we reached a sign that said it would take us 54 more minutes to reach the top. First off we knew they were lying and secondly we had already climbed a mountain this week. The path back was not nearly as pretty, but it did have the added bonus of a cat sleeping in one of the shrines.

For lunch we found yet another noodle shop and our second place where we had to sit on the floor. There was a very kind Nihonjin man sitting at a table across from us and after seeing us struggle for a bit he offered to share his table with Janet. Kira also moved over and I was left to let my legs fall asleep with the kids. I did have the corner with good back support so it wasn’t as bad as I make it sound. I had the Tempura Udon and while the noodles were typical it came with a tempura jalapeño which was delicious. Max got the same thing so I got to eat his first. I left mine until the end and it gave the broth a peppery taste that was very nice.

The afternoon’s activities were very subdued. We headed over to a three story international craft and souvenir store close to our Kyoto house. A large part of the first floor was books inEnglish about Japan, both fiction and nonfiction. The store was not very exceptional but it did sort of have everything none place. We were able to pick up quite a few items for folks back home and a couple small things for ourselves.

The walk back for the store to our Kyoto house took us by another shrine that we did not go in, but it is marked by a single Tori gate that is larger than any of the ones we had seen that morning. I managed to get a picture with Sarah standing next to it which shows how big the gate was. If I had to guess I would say it was over 50 feet high.

Another siesta before heading out to dinner. We had made it a light day of shopping because we planned on going out to view the parade floats after dinner. We are in Kyoto during Gion Matsuri, which is one of the longest running or possibly the oldest festival in Japan. We found a great place for dinner with a wide menu and lots of English that allowed us to order separate dishes for Max, Sarah and Janet, while Kira, Mel and I all shared a huge plate of sushi. Sarah tried the salmon sushi, but raw fish is pretty daunting. Everything they gave us was great except the cuttlefish, which was too chewy. Kira had to spit hers out and I think it took me over 5 minutes to chew mine enough to swallow.

After dinner we went out into the street and Kira armed with a map we received from our previous night’s waitress took us through the crowded streets over to view some of the two story floats that would be in the parade the next day. We passed stall after stall selling foods and drinks and desserts. It occurred to me that we could have skipped the restaurant and just snacked our way over to the floats.

After some readjusting once Kira realized that the map wasn’t quite to scale we made it over to the street where the floats were being kept. All of Kyoto was there to see the floats with us. The streets were closed to cars and thronged with people. Police were directing traffic to keep everyone moving along on the left side or we probably would have been stuck in the mass of people. We got a view of the head float and one other before we made our retreat. Kira and Janet figured out how to get back by trains and where the station was (right next to us it turned out) and we headed down. The pele in the subway were just as thick and the noise level was incredible. We got on a train and made our way home. The crowds got hinder as we went and eventually we could hear ourselves think again. We compared the crowds to Times Square on New Year’s Eve and none of us had mentally prepared for that so we were glad to make our escape.

The kids somehow talked us into stopping at the Lawson convenience store for ice cream and we got some more bread for toast the next morning.

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