Today we visited one of Kyoto’s most iconic sites: the Golden Temple. I was first taken to see it nearly 30 years ago as a freshly trained English teacher with the JET Programme. I was in awe, and I thought Elise would be, too. But the crowds were thick and we felt rushed as groups of tourists vied for photo ops, and the day was hot and sticky, etc, so our visit ended up feeling more perfunctory than magical. Elise did, however, enjoy the samples of traditional Japanese snacks for sale at the tea garden.
We said prayers for our loved ones and headed next to Fushimi Inari Shrine.
The path to the entrance was lined with food stands. The sign at this one looked, um – how to say it? – the opposite of appetizing.
Unlike the short path around the Golden Temple, the route up and down the mountain at Fushimi Inari was nearly 4 km and passed through 2,000+ red Shinto gates. As we got closer to the summit, the crowds disappeared.
There were many mini shrines along the path with statues of foxes, which are regarded as messengers.
As we neared the top, Elise asked “Is it going to be what heaven looks like?” When we got there, it looked like same as the path we’d been on, just level. And there were Oreo cookies for sale.
A soft, cool rain started to fall as we headed down the mountain, and in the falling light, the magic missing from earlier in the day was suddenly all around us.