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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

3 November 2015

The thousand tori

5 October 2015

Arashiyama is where Kyoto washes up against the forested mountains to the west, and it is home to many temples. Having trickled our way out there on a local train that rumbled through almost endless suburbs, we spent most of our time at the UNESCO-listed Tenryuji, with beautiful gardens that were originally laid out in the 16th century. Beyond the temple is a renowned forest of giant bamboo, although the only path through it was very crowded. Actually, everything so far is very crowded. Ordinarily this puts me off, but the crowds are almost all of locals and the Japanese people are so different in appearance, dress, manners and habits that it’s quite as interesting to watch them visiting a temple as it is to visit the temple.

The temple gardens

The temple gardens


In the afternoon we took a train back across to where Kyoto washes up against the forested mountains to the east, to the temple of Inari. This was even busier. The temple belongs to a different cult of Buddhist belief and is home to the thousand tori – bright red wooden arches set in lines to make atmospheric corridors winding up the forested hillside. I say bright red, but it was really a very deep orange tone, a sort of not-quite-easyJet. Foxes are also important in this cult, so their statues were everywhere too. The stream of visitors (tourists and worshippers – hard to tell the difference) tramping through the thousand tori was so continuous that we were absolutely stunned to find it suddenly empty before us. We stopped gawping long enough to take photos before the next set of faces appeared!
A miracle at Inari

A miracle at Inari


As usual in most busy places, as soon as we walked a bit further than the “obvious” attraction it become much quieter and we found an atmospheric cluster of bosky mossy shrines scattered with fox images in the woods.

We stopped for pre-prandial drinks at a seedy bar where a waiter shook cocktails for nobody but us, and then split for dinner. Maureen and I ate at Kyoto Mame Hachi, where we sat at the counter and the chef served us a series of delicious things, most of them involving tofu. Tofu is a speciality of Kyoto. And something Vanessa wouldn’t touch unless her life depended on it (maybe not even then!).

Chef at work, Kyoto Mame Hachi

Chef at work, Kyoto Mame Hachi


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