We were up by 8 am, and down to the hotel lobby for our included breakfast. It was the most American thing we ate our entire time in Japan, but since it was included in the price of the room, I wasn’t complaining.
I had poached eggs, DLJ had scrambled, toast, muffins, a small breakfast salad of fruit, tea and juice. We went back upstairs and packed, checked out, and stowed our stuff in cloak check so that we could explore for the day without dragging the stuff around. We went to two large temples the opposite direction from where we walked the previous day. The first had the largest wooden building in the world. It was being renovated so it was hidden beneath a metal shell of a larger building, so the view from outside was clearly not impressive. But it was open inside and the floor was the size of over 920 tatami mats. Definitely beautiful.
From there we wandered to another temple, also with a building under renovation! But a smaller one was not so we removed our shoes and walked up the stairs. An older man slid open the door for us and….*gulp!* A ceremony! Hundreds kneeling on the floor, people in robes! We dropped to our knees by the door. I felt completely out of it as a foreigner, but fascinated to see this. We stayed for about five minutes before beating a quiet retreat back outside. As we put our shoes back on, singing started to emnate from the building. We walked back to the road and along the outside of the temple back towards the train station, ducking into a small entrance into the same temple to check out a smaller building. No one was in that one, and for a few minutes even DLJ wasn’t there, it was fun to stand in the temple alone.
And then we were off again, back to the huge train station to catch a local train to Inari to get to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
We found the train, and the stop just fine. DLJ got a cheesecake and strawberry ice cream out of a vending machine and we left the station. The shrine was easy to find due to the massive orange gate right across the street. The shrine is huge, with hundreds of fox statues, as the fox is the messenger of the god Inari. Trails take over two hours to complete, through forest, by lakes, up hills and through tunnels of torii, the orange gates given by those whose wishes were answered. I am a stone lantern (ishidoro) junkie, and this place was heaven. It was a sunny day, causing the inside of the tunnels of torii to glow. There were small restaurants along the way serving tofu and noodles, but we were full, though the restaurants looked like a lovely place to stop and rest. My friend Berto was absolutely right…we bought our drinks at the bottom as the prices on the vending machines rose as you started hiking away from the main gate.
We made good progress but did not walk everywhere, as we had to get back to town and start our way back to Tokyo. I think this shrine was my favorite place, as it held so many things that fascinated me about Japan when I was a little girl, gates, lanterns, statues. We saw many cats weaving in and out of the endless pockets of small shrines and offerings that were draped all over the pathways.
Our trip back to the train station was easy, and we had one more stop that we had to get to on time…the English tour at the Imperial Palace. English tours happen only twice a day, and you have to first get to this little “application office” and show your passport, fill out a form and gain a “permission slip” to enter. I felt like I was in elementary school. We got our slip shortly before two and speed walked to the gate, gaining entrance.
The tour was just of the grounds, people can enter the palace only on a few days a year. But it was completely worth it to wander the outsides of the buildings, visit the formal gardens, and explore the business and living areas of the old palace from when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. The tour guide had good information and it was the largest gathering of foreigners I saw my entire time. At one point, an Asian tour went by the other direction, they had us going in opposite loops.
By the end of the tour, which lasted an hour, we were exhausted, and trooped back to the subway, back to the train station, back to the hotel, got our bags, back to the train station and slumped down into seats on the shinkansen. It was a sunny day and great for watching the scenery fly by outside the windows. We got some baked goods to eat on the way home, and arrived in Tokyo after dark. We made it all the way through several train changes back to J and M’s city inside Tokyo, with only one goof up of getting on an express that went by the station we wanted, so we went to the next one and turned around and came back. We walked back to their place without needing to look at the directions J kindly made for us. He was home and happy to see us. We left soon for dinner, a wonderful treat of a local place, nothing fancy. I had cold buckwheat noodles and a bowl of rice with katsu on top, along with a lovely sauce I had had at their apartment. I have got to see if the local giant Japanese place here has it.
It was nice to be back with friends, but I was glad to have given them a break from us while we explored another city.
Then it was home for the usual cup of brown tea and talking before we all retired to bed. One full day left to explore, and the big day where we met M’s parents!
cat in the Inari shrine on a statue of kitsune.
This guy looks like he stole his glasses from Leela on Futurama!