Although I’ve been to Kyōto (京都) twice before, I wasn’t about to pass such a rich concentration of Japanese culture by and so decided to take a couple of days to see some of the things I hadn’t had time to in previous visits (it also made a convenient stopping point between Hiroshima and Mt. Fuji). I based myself in the north-west of the city (determined more by where had vacancies during the busy New Year period than by where was best-placed for the sights I wanted to see), and so had a lot of walking (and hence exploring) to do. I struck out early in the morning, and immediately stumbled quite by chance up on a small shrine dedicated to good departures and safe journeys. I made an offering to keep me safe on my way back to Amy in Canada, and continued on my whirlwind sightseeing tour.
I breezed through several of Kyōto’s lesser-visited temples and shrines in relatively short order, all of them frantically setting up stalls, decorations and signs for tomorrow night’s New Year (c)rush. These preparations aside, they were mostly quiet and serene (I surmised that all the tourists were out at the bigger name attractions such as the Gold and Silver Pavillions), and I was able to explore the plethora of torii, altars and incense virtually unobstructed. The peace even extended down to the river, and I saw my first wild kingfisher (probably Alcedo atthis) – though it was much too wary for me to photograph.
The last place on my list for the day was the Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社), head shrine of Inari (the Shinto god of fertility, rice and foxes to name but a few areas of influence). What makes this shrine unique is the sheer number of donated torii and the (over)abundance of kitsune (fox) statues – great photographic opportunities abound, and are seized by every visitor with a camera. I wandered around until dark, and scuttled off just before dark lest my gloves not provide enough protection (among other magical abilities, kitsune can possess people by entering the body under the fingernails, but it’s usually young women that are chosen as victims).