“i was walking far from home”

9/11/11   –   20:09

Plans kept changing last minute on Saturday morning and circumstance ended up being that it would be me and Julia, and our destination was Fushimi Inari, with a brief stop in Kyoto afterwards.

I will be the first to say that traveling in Japan during the summer takes more energy than I can muster. Not because of the transportation or the ability to find the places you want to go. No. It’s just SO FRIGGIN’ HOT. I can’t even.

But anyway, while I was waiting for Julia outside of the Kintetsu department store, I decided I was really thirsty and went to go inside to buy something. People were waiting outside to get in because the store hadn’t opened yet. I was expecting an orderly and ordinary filing inside once the clock struck 10. And then the store opened. And it was glorious. The first customers lucky enough to enter Kintetsu at 10 AM are greeted with gracious smiles and deep bows. Keigo is showered on you and everyone welcomes you and asks if you need anything. On top of all of this, Vivaldi’s Spring from The Four Seasons is being blasted from all the store speakers. I felt like I opened the door to Ouran Host Club, if I may make the obscure reference. I almost expected rose petals to fall from the ceiling. Japan’s customer service is unparalleled, yo.

After I bought my 100 yen drink, though, I met Julia outside and we got on the train to go to Fushimi Inari Taisha.

One of the things that always gets me is the mountains. Seeing as the only mountains Florida has are made of garbage, the ones around here are amazing and always on the horizon. I ROVE MOUNTAINS.

Oh but yes, Fushimi Inari is the one that you probably saw in Memoirs of a Geisha if you watched that movie. Not that that’s the only media this shrine has been in. This is one of Japan’s most famous shrines and it lies just south of Kyoto, famous for its endless paths framed by thousands of red torii gates. It’s mesmerizing and the forest around it is very peaceful. [UNLESS IT’S SUMMER AND THERE ARE CICADAS SCREAMING EVERYWHERE] Jk. The white noise is actually really calming.

Inari is the god of commerce and business and as such, the billion torii gates inside are each donated by a certain company in order to pray for their financial success. Inari’s messenger is a fox 狐 [kitsune] (n.) fox and there are many representations of them in and around the temple. They mostly wear bibs but I’ve forgotten why.

So what would you call the color of those gates there in the featured pic? I’d say orange. The word that every guidebook ever uses, though, is vermilion. Now, I don’t really call anything vermilion. It’s a strange color in the English language. Not a primary color, really, and not in the usual vocabulary of colors. Japanese, however, has a word and separate kanji for vermilion: 朱色 [shuiro] (n.). It’s probably the color used for these torii gates and that’s why they have a commonly used word for it. Nothing in America is really strictly vermilion colored. Maybe Portugal is the same. Vermelha  is the word for red or scarlet in Portuguese. Idk, I just found that odd.

Now would also probably be a good time to do an introduction on Japanese shinto shrine etiquette.

– Upon entering a shrine, one must first purify oneself with water at the front. There are special hand ladles near the fountains and a specified order in which you must do this purification ritual [There was a sign explaining everything.] First hold the ladle in your right hand and wash your left hand. Then switch and wash your right hand. Pour water into your left hand to put into your mouth. Swish and spit into the trough. Then re-clean your left hand. I saw a lot of people bowing to the fountain afterwards as well.

– There are a few ways to send prayers up at these shrines. If you feel like you don’t need any relics to aid you, you can do the standard ::clap hands twice:: ::pray:: ::clap hands again:: ::bow:: that most people do. Sometimes this is accompanied by the rope-attached-to-bells. They make a big sound that is arguably better than, but still accompanied by the clapping. You can also buy candles and send your wishes up that way.

– This isn’t really a tradition, but many temples have magical superstitious–迷信 [meishin] (n.) superstition– things that you can do. Here’s one Julia and I found. Apparently you make a wish and you ask for the stone to be either light or heavy. If you pick it up and the stone becomes what you ask for, your wish will come true. So… when I went to pick up the stone, I sort of asked a question. Which is not a wish. Oops. The stone became heavy like I wanted it to, but then it probably horribly misinterpreted/mangled my request/question [requestion?] as evidenced by later events. Ahoo. Sad life.

– At temples, you can usually pay a couple hundred yen to get your fortune told. This is called omikuji. The fortunes tell you about your life now and the direction that it’ s probably going to go. The fortunes aren’t all good and sometimes they tell you that your life is going to be horrible in the near future. If you get one of these, you tie it to these strings outside. I heard the priests burn them at some point, eliminating your bad fortune. I didn’t get mine at Fushimi Inari. I sort of want to get mine at Kiyomizu-dera.

– You can buy charms at the front of the temple called o-mamori [protectors]. They are supposed to ward against certain mishaps or bring you luck in general. According to the signs at Fushimi Inari, these omamori tell me that:




I didn’t buy any of them so apparently I can not be happy, can’t make have a boyfriend/get married, and when I meet bad happens, nothing will save me. Sad life lol.

Here’s one thing they don’t tell you about Fushimi Inari. It would probably be common sense if you knew that the shrine was situated on a mountain, but all the paths are mostly steps. In addition to the endless torii, it’s basically just an endless stairway. I said to Julia while we were walking through. If Buddhism has hundreds of hells, this has got to be one of them. The infinite stairmaster. Here’s me and Julia at the top of the temple complex. Basically our “We survived Fushimi Inari” picture.

You know what else you can see from near the top of the mountain? All of Kyoto and its suburbs. Cool beans.

~ ~

And then, tired and really sweaty, we got on a train for Sanjo station in Kyoto.

– One of Kyoto’s specialties is their 抹茶 [maccha] green tea, which is made of high quality young tea leaves dried and ground into a powder, if I remember correctly. Because it’s a powder, it can be used as a flavoring in everything from ice cream [very popular] to mochi. I really wanted to try some but I was sort of really broke. Ah well, I live 40 minutes from Kyoto. I have a year, I’ll go again definitely.

– Another thing Kyoto is famous for is being the capital of Japan for a really long time. As such, it was the center of refinement for centuries and accordingly, has many venues for traditional performing arts like kabuki, rakugo, bunraku, and noh. In addition to this, it’s the home of the geisha tradition, being based in Gion-machi in central Kyoto. In fact, there are geisha and maiko in training that actually walk around Gion even today. I was lucky enough to catch one on her way somewhere [probably important].

~ ~

PS. I really like this Iron and Wine song. Like. A lot.

4 Responses to ““i was walking far from home””
  1. hopeinjapan says:

    yessssssssssssss you forgot the ダメ !! but I love the お守り part bwahahahahha so today I found some engrish I have to show you

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] already introduced you a little to shinto practices in the Fushimi Inari Taisha post, but I haven’t gone over Buddhist practices. As far as I could tell from what we did at each […]

  2. […] ochancoco191.wordpress.com/ Honden (Main Halls) […]

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