South and East Kyoto: torri gates, temples and geisha dress-up

On our first visit to Kyoto we only saw the central district. So on day 8, our friends took us back to Kyoto to see the some of the sites in the south and the east. It was also our last day with the rest of the wedding party before we diverted to Tokyo. On this day we first visited the shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha in the south. In the afternoon we visited the Higashiyama District and the Gion District in the east. It was here that the I got to experience becoming a geisha and enjoy a Buddhist afternoon tea. This was probably my favourite day of our wedding party tour.


Fushimi Inari Taisha is a famous shrine in south Kyoto. It is known for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which align the trails between the temples. The trails lead all the way up to sacred Mount Inari. This shrine is particularly important as it is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice. There are many fox statues throughout this shrine as it is thought that they are the messengers of Inari. These first photos are the buildings in the Mall Hall, before the Senbon Torii trail begins.


Senbon Torii gates are quite stunning in real life. The thousands of red gates just seem like a never-ending tunnel. They were actually donated by worshippers since the Edo period (1603-1868), as a way to express prayer and appreciation. The vermillion color is meant to represent a strong sense of spirituality.


After we passed the Senbon Torii gates, we came across the O-Tsuka stone monuments. These lead up to the mountain trail. They are engraved with different manifestations Inari Okami’s name and left as offerings.


In the afternoon we travel to Eastern Kyoto to explore the Gion and Higashiyama Districts. Gion is a famous geisha district, which is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geisha) and maiko (apprentices) entertain. Higashiyama is nearby and a nice place to experience old world Kyoto. The traditional merchant shops,   cafes and restaurants line the narrow lanes between the wooden buildings.


In Gion, the girls and I got to experience becoming geishas. The whole process took a long time but it made me appreciate the work that goes into dressing this way. With my western features, I’m not sure I made a very beautiful geisha, but it was fun to be transformed.


After we headed to Higashiyama to the Kiyomizudera Temple, which is one of the most celebrated in Japan. Beyond its gate is the wooden state, which is part of its main hall and stands 13 meters over the hillside below. From here the view of Kyoto and the colourful maple and cherry trees, make this view spectacular. From the top, we walked back down the hill where we saw more shrines, handwritten prayers and stone Jizo statue wearing red aprons. 


At the bottom of the Kiyomizudera Temple we came across food vendors and Buddhist cafes. It was here we had afternoon tea. We enjoyed Matcha tea, green tea and delicious sweet bean cake. Some of the food vendors were selling Warabimochi and Chadango.


Lastly, we headed to the Yasaka Shrine (Gion Shrine), which is between the Gion and Higashiyama District. It is quite nice to see the lanterns lite up at dusk or in the evening. Each lantern has a local business name written on it.  Here we saw more food vendors selling grilled bamboo shoots and more sweet dumplings.


Our last stop was dinner at a restaurant in the centre of Kyoto that specialised in Yakiniku (grilled meat). Since I wasn’t eating meat at the time I had plenty of seafood and vegetable sides to enjoy.

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