Just outside Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine has been around as a place of worship for 1300 years.
It is best known for its row of tori gates, whose red color is said to have powers against “supernatural powers” and also indicates the bounty of the Inari god.
(This particular spot is featured in a scene in the film “Memoirs of a Geisha.”)
The row of torii gates developed as a custom 400 years ago as donations from businesses to express gratitude for a wish “that has come true or will come true”; there are now 10,000 torii gates within the shrine.
(Incidentally in the film, the young girl runs through the torii gates on the way to the temple to offer a coin in prayer. The scene was flashed back at the ending when her wish came true.)
One can of course follow the gates all the way to the top of the mountain, about a couple of hours walk though lush scenery.
A tour of Fushimi Inari won’t be complete without mentioning the white fox, said to represent Inari (god of harvest and business) who protects rice crops from the mice that eat them. A recognition of ecological balance even in the old days.
It’s a good day’s visit — to admire a cultural symbol that has weathered the centuries, or simply reconnect with nature and oneself — something of a treat in today’s fast-paced world.
(Or maybe one can simply offer a prayer of thanks for a wish that has come true or will come true.)
I like the interplay of light and shadow at the Bamboo Forest of Akashiyama, near Kyoto, Japan..
As one walks into the forest, the rustle of the leaves whispers in your ear.
It reminds me of a story about a man who wanted to quit and went to the forest to ask God for a reason not to.
The answer he got was right around him. God compared the fern — which blooms almost instantly and fills the forest with its bright leaves — to the bamboo, which for years after planting, had nothing to show. But He didn’t quit on the bamboo.
And on the fifth year the bamboo suddenly emerged from the ground and rose to the sky, growing several feet every week until it covered the forest with its canopy.
For years the bamboo was silently growing its root system, so it could support itself as it ascends to what it can become.
I sometimes look at these pictures to remind myself of the bamboo, and the light that shines though them, when shadows tend to overcome.
Lake Kawaguchiko, near Tokyo, Japan.
A torii is the boundary between the human world and the spirit world, normally at the entrance of a Shinto shrine.
The Great Torii at Miyajima Island , usually shown as if floating on the water at high tide, is an icon of Japan.
But at low tide, one can go up close and explore it.
Some people even place coins between the barnacles for good luck.
But I also like the way the Torii peeks above the roofs as seen on the way down from Mount Misen.
Either way, it’s definitely worth a visit when in Japan.
He sees two other windows
Oblivious to him
Each one a screen
Lives playing out
A sliver of reality
A slice of time
Will they look at him
Looking at them
Or the other windows on his train
Or when the train moves
At the city lights
And the stars in the lonely sky?
(Thoughts on a bullet train station in Kyoto.)
Loyalty is the foundation that makes friendships endure. It’s the difference between ordinary friends and true friends.
Dogs are called “man’s best friend” because they can show unparalleled loyalty.
One of the most famous stories of loyalty is that of Hachiko, an Akita dog whose owner was a professor at the University of Tokyo. Each morning they would walk together to Shibuya train station for the professor’s commute, and at the end of the day Hachiko would wait at the station for his return. Until one day the owner did not show up for he had a stroke while giving a lecture. For ten years — rain, shine, or snow — Hachiko would wait at the station every afternoon until his own death in 1935. This happened long ago and still the story is being told, including a movie with Richard Gere in 2009.
Hachiko became famous as a symbol of loyalty in Japan that a bronze statue was erected at Shibuya station in 1934, unveiled with Hachiko present!
Hachiko is still waiting after all these years.
His statue is now a popular landmark in Tokyo and a favorite meeting place among young Japanese friends.
“If you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali
Let me hasten to add, if you haven’t learned the meaning of loyalty, you really haven’t learned the meaning of friendship.
“A good friend is like a four-leaf clover; hard to find and lucky to have.”
– Irish proverb
True friends are rare because loyalty is rare. Treasure them, and be one.
“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.”
– Benjamin Disraeli
I may not be as great a traveler as Benjamin Disraeli, but I have seen quite a bit and remember quite a few.
Among those things I’ve seen and remember is the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. I do like temples and, though not a Buddhist, I find it soothing to the soul when I’m in a Zen temple or garden. This one in particular captures harmony between heaven and earth, and also shines in its beautiful setting.
The Golden Pavilion is worth visiting for a sight to remember, if not to soothe one’s soul.
Some facts about the Golden Pavilion
1. It is a World Heritage Site.
2. The top two stories are covered with gold leaf.
3. The gold is to purify any negative thoughts towards death.
3. Its origin dates back to the 1400s.
More info on the Golden Pavilion here.