Kyoto Spring 2012, Day 3, Fushimi-inari, Uji

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Monday, April 30, 2012

For this trip, both my aunt and I prepared for cooler weather because we had assumed that it would be spring. Well, it was spring in Aomori but definitely more like summer in Kyoto for those first couple days. It was a bit cooler on Day 3 in Kyoto, so I was able to wear one of the long-sleeve shirts I had brought.

We were both sore and tired from the first two days of walking all over tarnation, so we got to a later start in the morning. We walked from Yahata to Kyoto station and found the right train to go to Fushimi-inari Shrine.

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The first time I went to the Fushimi-inari Shrine, it was snowing. The white was a stark contrast against the thousands of red torii gates. It was a sight that just about took my breath away. I went again that summer and it was blazing hot. After walking around a while, my friend and I had taken solace inside a inari-zushi restaurant for inari-zushi and noodles.

This time, in spring, the temperature was nice. It was a little overcast, but that was a good thing since we were walking around. I even had to roll up my sleeves after climbing a bit. The shrine is at the base of a little mountain covered with torii gates, one after another.

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Me in front of the shrine

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And Aunt Jan!

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Prayers/wishes are written on these.

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Isn’t this amazing?

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I just love this place. My aunt loves being in the woods and among greenery, so Fushimi-inari was perfect for her too.

We walked up and up and up, until reaching a certain checkpoint with a restaurant. I saw a tree with a bunch of yuzu (citron) fruits hanging on it, something I had not seen before.

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I looked upwards and there looked like there were even more steep stairs. We decided to turn back at that point and head back down.

We walked around the sleepy little town center and poked around a few shops before deciding to head back to the station. It only took us a couple hours to explore, but it felt like enough.

On to Uji!

Uji is one of my favorite places because it is the town of The Tale of Genji, “a classic work of Japanese literature written by the Japanese noblewoman and lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu in early years of 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period.” I once took an entire semester-long class at Waseda University solely on The Tale of Genji. I have read the entire thing (the Royall Tyler translation), cover to cover. Uji is a city that is featured in ten of the chapters. The bridge is very symbolic to that part of the story.

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Me with the statue of Murasaki Shikibu with Uji bridge in the background

It was still overcast when we arrived, but I was still very happy to be there. We first stopped at the tourist’s center to grab an English map and headed down the main drag. Everything smelled wonderful because of all the teahouses. Uji is quite famous for its tea, so we stopped to sample quite a bit of it.

We made it down the alley to RAAK (Eiraku-ya), one of my favorite stores. We had seen a couple other smaller RAAK shops in Kyoto, but the one in Uji was twice their size.

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RAAK is a textile shop with tons of awesome designs. You can buy wall hangings, scarves, bags, handkerchiefs, and other accessories that make use of the designs. We happily spent forever and a day just looking at everything!

Here are the designs that we bought: (I bought the second two.)

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After RAAK, we went to Byōdō-in temple. I hadn’t been before, but boy I was glad that I did! It used to be a villa of a powerful Fujiwara clan member, but was converted into a Buddhist temple. The most famous building of the complex is Phoenix Hall, which apparently is on the back of a ten-yen coin! I did not notice this until a few minute ago. It is also the only remaining original building and is a remnant of Heian period architecture.

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I had to do a lot to get a “no-people” shot like this. Japanese people were looking at me very strangely.

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I think this is my favorite shot of the two of us of the whole trip. Smiles all around!

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I just thought this shot was cool.

After looking at the Phoenix Hall and taking pictures for a while, we headed to the museum and gift shop—both were extremely well-done. Very classy, I would say.

We walked around Uji for a little bit and saw a cute little pottery museum with the works of a very talented potter… who just happened to be in the museum. When we sat down to rest our feet, we were served tea! What a pleasant surprise. I also got to see a Genji statue that I had never seen before.

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The things you find when you explore!

It had just started to sprinkle when we got to the station, so it was perfect timing. We rode the train from Uji back to Kyoto during the rainy time.

It wasn’t dinnertime, so I suggested we walk around Isetan for a bit while we decided what to do about dinner. It was then that I discovered that I look quite good in hats. Especially the kind of ridiculously expensive Japanese hat that Japanese women wear to protect their skin from the sun. I’m more interested in the style than sun protection, but I also was not paying over $100 for a silly hat!

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These subway stairs are here to remind you how good taking the stairs is for you! Haha.
We were –6 calories after this set.

Once again, Aunt Jan obliged me by letting me pick the restaurant for dinner. I know she did not come to Japan to eat American food, but… I craved it. I had heard of this Irish pub that served a variety of food and a pretty rockin’ vegan menu, so I was literally dying to try it out.

Tadg’s Irish Bar and Restaurant did not disappoint.

I took a look at the huge menu and pretty much knew that I had to go for the vegan pizza with made-in-house vegan cheese. I mean. Come on. Where else in Japan am I going to see vegan cheese on a pizza in Japan?

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It was perfect. Those that know me also know that I have a wheat allergy/intolerance that tends to flare up… But friends, this was worth the risk. I asked the kitchen to put some spinach on top and give me an extra cup of marinara… Both requests were kindly answered and I was one happy customer. I threw caution to the wind and enjoyed this veggie pizza. The whole thing.

Aunt Jan also got a pizza; bacon, cheese, and mushroom. It looked delicious as well! After the meal, we shared some yuzu sorbet.

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A perfect ending.

On the way back home via subway, we ran by LOFT (one of my favorite stores ever) before it closed. We looked at silly iPhone cases for fun and I bought a pocket-sized notebook because my current one was nearly full.

What a day!

P.S. This picture is for my dad:

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4 Responses to “Kyoto Spring 2012, Day 3, Fushimi-inari, Uji”

  1. So much fun to read! Wish I could do a trip like this with you!

  2. NowI have seen the whole trip-your great blog-Aunt Jans pictures and
    comments.The pictures told a story in themselves.The takes me back
    to my traveling days. Much love,Nana

  3. Everytime I think of Tale of Genji for some reason I think of “HOLY SHIT IT’S A FOX! DON’T HELP IT!” and how that became one of the running jokes from the trip. I miss Fushimi Inari…. T_T Torii gates….

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