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Monday, May 9, 2011

May 9th - Geisha, flowers, market, and the Heian and Inari Shrines!

"Happy mothers day mom!"  Aaron and I recently bought iphones, which has been just about the greatest thing ever!  We were able to sit for a long time this morning, chatting with my parents for Mother's Day!  Technology sure is amazing, huh?!

We left the hostel around 10am and spotted these darling old Japanese men sketching one of the most famous areas of Kyoto...

... this bridge and alleyway.

We saw this poster everywhere we went.  Not sure if it's for a GEISHA show or a flier for a number to call for the GEISHA to come meet you for tea!  Either way, you better be ready to fork over some serious cash to hang with these girls!

We walked through the downtown shopping area of Gion and watched this young guy making traditional Japanese snacks!

The beautiful river that runs through Gion, Kyoto.

If this building wasn't so beautiful I would have said it stuck out like a sore thumb!  It was pretty strange to see a European style building in such a historical and traditional Japanese area!
 I can not get enough of GEISHA's, and luckily we were in just the right spot to get this amazing photo!  (Thanks Aaron!) 

Halloween Costume shop add, perhaps?!

There are gorgeous flower shops all throughout Kyoto.  I'm sure if I lived in Japan I'd frequent these shops at least once a week and grace my desk with a lovely bouquet!

Random food, soaking in hot water, in front of a cash register at a local convenient store.

I love when restaurants show the food for you so you don't have to attempt to translate the menu!  :)

I'm in love with Japanese lanterns!

Some high school aged girls, shopping in the traditional Nishiki market, dotting their Kimonos!

Nishiki traditional market.

Nishiki traditional market.  Who wants a $10.00 fish head for dinner?

Nishiki traditional market - antique china shop. 

Nishiki traditional market. 

Nishiki traditional market. 

After leaving the Nishiki traditional market, we took a bus over to the Heian Shrine.  The bus let us off a couple blocks from the shrine, and as we were walking there we spotted a quaint little park with a swing set and some stone slides and jungle gyms.  Aaron said his hips were too wide to fit!  *** 

Ahh, much better!

These were magical swings as far as I was concerned.  Once you were going you didn't have to pump your legs, you just continued swinging at the same height!  It was awesome!

The entrance to the Heian Shrine courtyard. The Heian Jingū was built in 1895 for the 1,100th anniversary of the establishment of Heiankyō (the old name of Kyoto).

Prayer / wish papers tied to a red post in the courtyard of the Heian shrine.

Don't worry, I didn't drink it!

Introducing part of the Heian Shrine Complex!

We paid 400 yen to enter the gardens, which was VERY MUCH worth the minimal fee! It was sooo serene and quiet!  Aaron and I sat here in this gazebo for a long time...

Heian Shrine garden pond... We always get creative about taking couple pictures when we don't have Aaron's handy dandy 2.5lb tripod!  This time, my camera was balancing on a trashcan! :)

Aaron suggested we have a leaf race down this little stream.  He's a mountain boy, can you tell?!  Even though I was brought up as a city girl, I still picked the stellar leaf, which floated much faster than his!  Everyone knows the skinny ones float faster!  Come on Aaron!

Got it.  I won't touch the "life in the pond"!

The Heian Shrine's gardens are huge!  We walked the paths for 3 hours, of course stopping to get tea and ice cream along the way at the little traditional tea house on site, overlooking the pond. 

We sat on that bridge for a long time, looking over into the waters, watching the turtles and Koi fish swimming about, begging for food!  

The beautiful steps over the pond at Heian.

3 of the many darling water turtles!  'The babies were my favorite, of course!

 At the end of the pathway through the Heian Shrine garden complex.  I'd like to point out that we didn't use special camera placements to cut out other tourists from the pictures at this Shrine... There really were hardly any people there!!  We practically had the place to ourselves!

I could not resist!  Aaron and I were standing on the other side of the street waiting for our bus and I saw these little kids all playing on the other side of the street!  Check out the police hats!

The good ole' beer vending machines!!  I don't think Aaron ever passed one without stopping! :)


We took the local train to the Fushimi Inari Shrine but got on the express train and ended up 1/2 way to Osaka!  Oops!  We got back on, going back the other way and made it to the Fushimi Inari shrine stop, free off extra charges!  Thank goodness! That would have been an expensive mess up!

If only I could read Japanese!  Where's the shrine?

We finally made it to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, one of my favorite places in the world!!  This was the very first wooden wish I'd seen written in English!

Near the entrance to the Fushimi Inari Shrine

Millions of gorgeous origami cranes hang near the entrance to the shrine.

This is the entrance to the VAST pathways that wind through the Fushimi Inari Shrine, each lined with these gorgeous regal orange Torii!  Merchants and manufacturers worship the Shinto god, Inari for wealth.  Inari shrines typically have many Torii because someone who has been successful in business, in gratitude, often donates a torii to Inari, the Shinto god of fertility and industry. This shrine has thousands of such torii's, each bearing the donor's name.[

I had to steal a kiss under the Torii!

So awesome, right?!

Once you walk for a long time through the tunnels of torii, you come out of them and are met with structures like this!  

If you're a millionaire, you can buy a Torii too!  I personally would rather go on a shopping spree, or retire early, but that's just me!  I guess if you believe in the Shinto god Inari, this would be a very tangible way of thanking him or her for their blessing.  

The shrines at the Inari Shrine are REALLY, REALLY old!! As the sun began to go down, it began to get creepier and creepier, especially because it felt as if Aaron and I were the only people here, and the shrine is in the middle of the woods!

No worries if you get thirsty along the way!  There are freshwater stations everywhere!

Last time I was here, you could see much more of the city, but trees grow, and in the past 2 years they've grown so much, you almost can't see the view of the city down below anymore!

It was about this time of night that the place started feeling REALLY EERIE!

Right, or left?!  You chose!

One last little photo shoot beneath the torii at the Inari Shrine!

We said goodbye to the Inari Shrine around 10pm, and headed back to Gion.


We stopped at our hostel first and then walked over to our favorite noodle place down the street!  The Temple next to the noodle place was lit up beautifully for the night!

One our way home, we stopped on one of the traditional tea streets for some Geisha spotting!  Low and behold, we spotted one!  These girls are tricksy though!  They come out of nowhere and quickly slide into dark narrow alleys before you even have the chance to scream, "There's a GEISHA!!!" haha 

 It would be an understanding to say this trip has been anything more than magical! :)

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