Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fushimi Inari and Uji

Today was a "free" day, but Keiko offered to guide us to two local sites to visit and paint, and most (all) of the group took her up on the offer.

We first visited a nearby shrine, Fushimi Inari Shrine, which was just two train stops south.  The shrine sits at the foot of Inari mountain and is famous for its thousands of red torii, which wind up the trail up the mountain.  The shrine included many depictions of foxes (kitsune), which are known as messengers.

View of the shrine from the Inari train station -- quite close!

Kitsune in front of the shrine

Another kitsune in front of the shrine building
We had about 1.5 hours at the shrine, so I was able to follow the path of torii only partway up the mountain (the full hike would take 2 hours just to get up).  Not sure how many gates I walked through, but it was really cool and the surrounding forest was beautiful.  Along the way, and especially along the path back down the mountain, I saw many "mounds" for private worship, called tsuka.

One of the tsuka

Street food!

Look closely...
Those are octopus balls
More dango
Fish-shaped pastries to fill with sweet things

Some sort of...pancake?
After Inari, we headed further south to Uji, which is actually where Keiko's mom lives.  Uji is known for its high quality green tea.  As the train got closer to Uji (maybe about 2-3 stops away), we started to notice field of tea growing along the train tracks, with tea hedges living happily under protective tents.  Remember that shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (who lived in the Golden Pavilion)?  He encouraged the cultivation of green tea in Uji in the late 14th century, and its been known for its tea ever since.  We had heard that the whole town smells like tea, and it definitely did as we walked off the train -- a nice smell.  I certainly smelled it when we entered the tea shop "district", where tea was being ground and made and sold.  The best part was when we got back on the train home and I realized the smell had permeated my hands and hair!

Uji was the setting for parts of the Tale of Genji (said to be the world's first novel).  The story, written by the Lady Murasaki, which is pretty impressive for that time.  Keiko explained that it is the tale of a handsome aristocrat who basically becomes a bit of a player, and so it is a romance, which is perhaps surprisingly graphic, considering it was required reading for her as a high-school aged student.

Some of the group visited the local shrines and shops first, but we joined Keiko for lunch under the cherry blossom trees along the Uji River and then settled in to try to do some sketches and painting of the local scenery.  Afterwards, we made our way to the tea shops, a furoshiki shop, and then back to the train.

The Lady Murasaki 
View along the Uji River

Our lunch spot

Our lunch!

The end result

Kim sketching under the trees

View from the path as we walk toward the tea part of town

Grinding up the green tea to make matcha

The street of tea shops!
Matcha for sale
And sencha
And a perfect parking spot for Jettas

Dinner in Kyoto was ramen -- sort of an adventure to order, as we had to figure out the system.  You first select and pay for your meal in an automatic machine, then you get a meal ticket, then you stand in a long line and wait your turn.  Eventually you are invited to come sit at the ramen-eating-bar and presented with a huge bowl of ramen and all the necessary accompaniments.  We got regular pork ramen and some gyoza, but you can order special toppings, like hard boiled eggs, too.

My giant bowl of ramen (actually size "medium")
Kim with her ramen and cold oolong tea.
She won the ramen eating contest and was actually the only one to finish the whole bowl.

No comments:

Post a Comment