Still recovering from illness, I started this day in a hostel in Osaka and jumped on the first train back to Kyoto, where I’ve missed a few days of action. Noticing my fellow commuters, I felt obligated to snap a few photographs conveying their sense of style, with a pinch of social commentary.
The head shrine of Inari – the deity of rice and patron of business – sits at the base of a mountain and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines which span about 4 kilometers. The trails are laden with thousands of torii gates, most of which have been donated by Japanese businesses. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues laid across the shrine grounds.
Protected from a slight drizzle by the gates and the forest top, I followed a group of traditionally dressed Japanese. There are several planned stops along the path. The first offers a panoramic view of Kyoto, stretched to the horizon beneath the mountain:
Another stop is at a small lake up on the mountain, surrounded by wild vegetation:
The final stop is at the top of the mountain, where there are multiple mini-shrines:
Passing through Inari’s gates in that mountain-forest trail was an experience to remember. Whatever your mood going into the trail, by the time you’re a hundred steps in you are certain to become calm and full of wonder, transfixed by the forest, torii gates, eerie status and miniature shrines and graveyards.
Translated as the “Golden Pavillion”, Kinkakji was a retirement villa of the Shogun in the 14th century and according to his will became a Zen temple after his death. It is a structure intended to serve as a place of rest and solitude, inducing serenity and clarity-of-thought.
I stayed in the garden for a while, waiting to catch the golden pavillion at the golden hour:
The only part left of a larger standing complex, Kinkakuji is the older brother of Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion), built a century earlier at the start of cultural period which heavily relied on visual excesses.
Comparing the two brothers, I feel that Kinkakuji is all about the temple itself – the impressive structure at the center of the lake, coated by gold and demanding attention, while Ginkakuji is more about the surroundings – the gardens, the paths, the shops – accenuating them but not overwhelming them. Both are a must-visit, but in this case I preferred silver to gold.
An obligatory selfie from the day: