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We resolved to go to Fushimi Inari, but I wanted to go when there wouldn't be too many people, and I had read that the crowds thinned in the evening. That left us with most of our day still free, and after a slow morning we decided to at least go out for a walk.

Chion-in was probably the closest temple to our inn, and as we came to the sign for it, we decided this time to turn down the walk and take a look. A large part of the temple was, like at Kiyomizudera, closed for renovation, and the temple grounds were noisy and fairly empty of people. We took a different path down from the temple, however, and this led us along some lovely and quiet streets which somehow or other seemed to take us back to Yasaka Jinja yet again.

Chion-in's main gate, the largest in Japan.

Looking down at the gate.

Streets along our walk.

Some Japanese tourists actually followed us through here.

From there, we decided to make our way back to the inn before we wore ourselves out, and find some food along the way. Still a little jittery after our last restaurant experience, we stopped in a tiny place that advertised bentō. The woman there greeted us nicely and presented us with an English menu before we could get the words out that we didn't mean to eat there. We had the place to ourselves for the moment, so we decided why not? And sat down.

It turned out to be one of the best meals we had in Japan. I had white fish in a sweet sauce, and Katie had chicken, and each of our meals came complete with rice, miso soup, pickles, and three little side dishes. It was so good that I couldn't stand to let any of it go to waste, and downed Katie's miso soup--which she dislikes--in exchange for her finishing off my rice. Pleasantly full and refreshed, we returned to the inn to relax until evening came.

At about 4:30, we decided it was late enough to get a move on, before laziness settled in and we talked ourselves into going another day. We took the subway to Kyōto Station, and from there wrestled with the signboard; the few other travellers I asked didn't know what stop was nearest Fushimi Inari, and I didn't know how to write it anyway. Finally we resorted to asking at the information desk again, and then it was thankfully simple enough to find the right train.

As we got off at the small station and began our walk up to the shrine, I was gratified to see that there were more people leaving than arriving. For the first series of torī paths, we played leapfrog with a few couples and a family group, but the farther we went up the hill, the quieter it became. Eventually we were alone save for a few joggers passing us one way or the other. The late afternoon sunlight shone through the gaps between the gates, highlighting their edges in vibrant orange and throwing everything else into shadow.

Climbing ever higher.

As the sun sets.

We went farther up the hillside than I had been before, although there were paths going higher still when Katie decided she had had enough. I went a little farther to discover a sort of landing with a panoramic view of Kyōto and called her up to join me. There were some boys there taking photos and we smiled at each other. I still felt energetic enough to explore farther, and I left Katie at the landing while I went up a short path that led to another panorama.

The sun was finally setting as I rejoined Katie, and the sky deepened into evening as we made our way back down the slope. The lights amidst the torī had come on, little beacons in the semi-darkness. It was enchanting, and I think if I were to live in Kyōto at any point, I'd want to be near Fushimi Inari; the shrine is free and always open, and to be able to walk through it whenever I liked would be really amazing.

December 2016

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