After a rainy day in the city yesterday filled with Manga and the Nishiki Market, we headed south to hike Mt. Inari through the Torii gates that dot the mountainside. The train ride from Kiyomisu-dera stop to the Inari stop takes about 10 minutes of nice, cool comfort in the steamy weather of this part of southern Japan.
We got off the train in Inari and found ourselves caught up in a huge Sunday crowd. Sundays are days when Japanese families and friends get together and do something…in this case hike Mt. Inari. The walk up to the start of the hike was crowded with people in the very close proximity of the very narrow streets of the village of Fushimi. As one walks across the train tracks and into the town, the street, used by cars, becomes a walking path, not much bigger than a sidewalk.
All along the way, street vendors offer everything from grilled rice cubes to skewered fruit to my personal favorite Okanomiyaki. This dish is a revelation if you have not encountered it: grated potatoes, vegetables, and additions like Bonita flakes, a sweet barbeque-type sauce made from Ponzo, and, finally, a Japanese-style mayonnaise that is slightly sweet. Judith grabbed skewered grilled rice balls (about the size of a 10 cent Japanese coin) coated with a sweet brown sauce. Logan, Dylan, Jade, Hailey and I dove into the Okanomiyaki. Nick, as has become his custom in Japan, ate fried chicken bites.
As we approached the temple complex, the numbers of people swelled…movement was really a challenge…we shuffled along, slowly up the first steps to the Torii gates. These vermillion red structures line the entire hike up the mountain. On one side are the numbers of each Torii and on the other a kind of prayer, saying. As you wind your way up the mountain and through the gates, the numbers of people dwindle to the point that, in sections, you walk alone. This phenomenon is fascinating…especially once you cross the mountain top (after section number 14) you could walk all alone for almost the entire way down!
Our group broke up into three distinct masses: the ones who practically ran up the trail, those who went up gradually, and those who stopped to take pictures. The entire journey of 4.7 miles took us about 2:00 hours (leisurely pace). It was hot, and we were filled with sweat despite the cool breeze amidst the trees and under the Torii.
We all made it down in different groups and we went on a search for our friend Logan who, somehow, had become separated from his hiking partner Nick. Once down from the hike, the numbers of humans milling about made finding young Logan a bit of a challenge. We spread out, searched around and Dylan found him eating some wonderful food. Crisis abated! Problem solved. For a minute. I had sent Nick and Pandora to slowly search some of the small shops on the sides of the path toward the train station…then we promptly lost them! We searched for them and found them! Excitement! Thrills!
We walked back to the Keihan line and jumped on the train for the short ride back to the city.
Some of us crashed back at the house after the hike and the rest of us walked up to Kiyomiza-dera temple/shrine. The temple is directly up the road from where we are staying, and the walk was steep but easy. Since I have been visiting Japan, this temple has been under reconstruction. I talked to an attendant and he said the plan was to finish about two years ago, but they found drainage problems under the main part of the temple….the main building is situated in the steep side of a hill supported by huge timbers.
We wandered the grounds and much like the crowds at Fushimi-Inari, disappeared as one walks along the various paths through the trees and out to a distant Pagoda dedicated to children.
After this visit, we headed back down to our house, directly down the hill. I ordered folks Domino’s Pizza for delivery (!!) and they chowed on pepperoni and cheese pizzas. A taste of home revived the lethargic group. Another successful day in Japan!
Tomorrow, biking to Kinkaku-ji and the Bamboo forest in Arashiyama!