Japan 16 - The cruel shoes

My feet kill beyond anything I can ever recall in the past. We walked miles today and no amount of coffee or baked goods seem to be able to refuel me. Daniela says it’s my shoes, but I know I’m just old, and my feet hurt more easily than hers. She will never agree with this.

It disappoints me that I can’t keep up with her. I feel like sometimes I hold her back.

It’s 7:45pm in Kyoto and I am sitting in a department store chair on the first floor of Takashiyama. It’s a high-end joint that holds little interest for me.

We did a good run today and spent a chunk of time shopping in the multitude of Japanese stores in downtown Kyoto, but not until we climbed a mountain (literally) and went without breakfast.  My feet currently feel like there are hammers pounding on them. Plus a tiny thousand devils jabbing pitchforks into their souls. Makes me feel somewhat defeated…. Sorry about the pun.  Again more bad music…. Here it’s Kenny G. jazz mixes, ones that make you want to tear your own face off… The rest from sitting here in this big leather chair is doing me good. I am typing on my phone while I recharge. Hopefully this will give me a second wind. But, it’s still a long way to the hotel and, way too early to go back straight away. I look around and take it all in. No matter where I am on this trip there is always something fascinating to see and hear close by. It may not be that much of anything specific, but the culmination of things here is just so different there is no real way to describe it. I remember seeing cartoons years ago that depicted Japan and the far east as upside down. In some ways the old analogy still holds true, but without the inference that upside down is bad – it’s just different.

These stores we have been visiting have grand varieties of specialized items. Stationery and pens are a fetish of mine (along with the dirty manga) and I have been fondling and ogling writing instruments of great sophistication today. Some pens made it into my possession and a few articles of clothing. Not anything too substantial as of yet. Incense from temples, good luck charms and omen warding talismans, a set of meditation beads, manga, a small gold key charm that resides in the mouth of a fox (the key to the granary) symbolizing wealth and success in business, and many miniature figurines purchased from vending machines around the different districts we have visited (most of the figures are Japanese pop culture related or manga characters of some sort but some are also souvenir location pins).

The first shrine we visited today was somewhat notable over some of the others, as was the second one.

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社?) is the head shrine of Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari which is 233 metres above sea level, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines which span 4 kilometers and takes approximately 2 hours to walk up.

Since early Japan, Inari was seen as the patron of business, and merchants and manufacturers have traditionally worshipped Inari. Each of the torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha is donated by a Japanese business. First and foremost, though, Inari is the god of rice.

This popular shrine is said to have as many as 32,000 sub-shrines (bunsha (分社?)) throughout Japan.

The entrance to an Inari shrine is usually marked by one or more vermilion torii and some statues of kitsune, which are often adorned with redyodarekake (votive bibs) by worshippers out of respect. This red color has come to be identified with Inari, because of the prevalence of its use among Inari shrines and their torii. The main shrine is the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Fushimi, Kyoto, Japan, where the paths up the shrine hill are marked in this fashion.

The kitsune statues are at times taken for a form of Inari, and they typically come in pairs, representing a male and a female.[4] These fox statues hold a symbolic item in their mouths or beneath a front paw — most often a jewel and a key, but a sheaf of rice, a scroll, or a fox cub are all common. Almost all Inari shrines, no matter how small, will feature at least a pair of these statues, usually flanking or on the altar or in front of the main sanctuary.[4] The statues are rarely realistic; they are typically stylized, portraying a seated animal with its tail in the air looking forward. Despite these common characteristics, the statues are highly individual in nature; no two are quite the same.

This place was a long steep walk up many many stairs. It looked like something out of an Indiana Jones movie and was something to behold. (I keep watching the video I shot of it over and over again, I promise to post some of it when I get home). The climb became somewhat of a spiritual plight in itself and my sore feet are a testament to our conviction to accomplish this worthy endeavour today. It is a cliché to call it magical but there are no other words to depict it right now. I spent a good part of the trip out of breath and dizzied by the steep altitude. Add this dark rainforest type ambiance after a fresh rain, steam and mist circling statues of foxes, dragons and demons, stone moss-covered lanterns, intricate water-gardens and channels, feral cats, spiders the size of my hand and birds screeching in the trees.

Every once in a while we we would reach a sub-level summit and I would stagger sweat dizzy and panting. Each one of these landings contained an intricate maze of shrines and quirky vendors selling icy drinks and worship supplies like incense and scrolls, candles, wooden plaques to write messages to the gods on.

Daniela encouraged me onwards like a dog trainer with her mascot. I panted and looking back at her, nodded with my tongue out, and wagged my tail, too winded to reply, too dizzy to resist her zeal, too enamoured with he experience.

Our second temple of the day and last one in Kyoto was that of the hall of 1000 gold Buddhas.


Sanjūsangen-dō (三十三間堂?, lit. thirty-three ken (length) hall) is a Buddhist temple in Higashiyama District of Kyoto,Japan. Officially known as “Rengeō-in” (蓮華王院), or Hall of the Lotus King, Sanjūsangen-dō belongs to and is run by theMyoho-in temple, a part of the Tendai school of Buddhism. The temple name literally means Hall with thirty three spaces between columns, describing the architecture of the long main hall of the temple.

We entered this temple with shoes off just at the start of a relatively heavy rainstorm. The temple was dark and crowded, filled with pious worshippers and monks all going about their business. Lots of sickly and special-needs cases milling about amongst mumbling old women nodding and praying to grotesquely frightening deities surrounded with coiling snakes and dragons.

Now these sculptures dated back to the 1200’s. This temple was not fucking around. It was dark, damp, creepy as hell, and it scared me. The energy in the large room with the 1000 gold guardians surrounding the Buddha floating on this gold lotus flower and these black life-size wood-carved menacing guardians all grimacing and macabre really got under our skin. Add to it the wails of the ailing and the mentally unfit there to seek refuge and healing – you’re into some seriously physiologically contagious hysteria.

We saw some pretty hairy shit it the deep dark tombs of ancient Egypt (including bat infested catacombs filled with the dead) but this, with the rain pelting on the roof, and all, just plain gave us the heebee jeebees.

Oddly enough, just as we exited the temple the rain shut off and the sun broke out of the clouds. At this point we figured it was a message from the Gods to skip the last temple and just go shopping.

It’s late, and I could type on and on, but we have to hit the train in the am to head to our next, and second last destination. Besides, I have to try and figure out what to do with these blistered feet of mine. Tomorrow I will most likely be walking like Ratso Rizzo from Midnight Cowboy.