The Red Gates

Day 9 – Saturday, 6 April 2024

Bloody tourists
It’s torii all the way up

Fushimi Inari Taisha is very, very famous, making any alleged joke that I might insert here about it sounding like one element of a sushi platter fatuous and ignorant. It sits at the bottom of Mount Inari and the path from the temple complex to the top is lined with “a thousand” red torii (I did not check the count). A trillion photographs of it have been posted to Instagram and, without any of us lifting a finger, this morning we appeared in the background of numbers 1,000,000,000,001 to 1,000,000,003,296.

We did the full path, rising 233 metres in a horizontal distance of two or three kilometres, at a guess, Batu Caves in Malaysia proving to have been a good training exercise. Muneo-san told me yesterday, in the context of a different faith entirely, that temples cleanse the soul. I don’t know where my soul is to be found, most days, but it could no doubt do with a little buff and polish. At the summit shrine, I aped the devotional ceremony of the true believers and once again asked the universe for health and happiness for those with me. This is the rankest hypocrisy, of course, but I had 233 vertical metres of soul cleanliness accumulated and felt entitled to risk a little of it to make a harmless wish, and contribute 500 yen to the shrine coffers. I then spent the entire trip down trying to preserve that cleanliness by not getting tetchy with slow moving pilgrims hampering my descent and the most urgent mission of the morning – to find a pharmacy that would sell me something to alleviate the cold symptoms that had reached full flower overnight. The internet had told me that, Japanese work culture including an expectation that you will be at work unless your symptoms have your family gathering by the bedside and bickering about who’s getting the good furniture, the range of cold and flu pills available is broad and powerful. Just what I needed. I forget precisely which of the opioids dihydrocodeine is, but I’m damn sure it isn’t available over the counter in Australia, and I have my doubts that “bell flower extract” is a proper, actual piece of reality, but I swallow two of them gratefully.

Gotta catch ’em all, apparently

We then went shopping for a spare pair of trousers for Seb, who is in that curiously unpopulated clothing space between big boy and small man. Increasingly desperate, we starting having him try things on without checking the price tag first. Thank goodness the 45,000 yen pair fit no better than the rest. Eventually, Anna and Raf headed home, while Seb and I plunged into Kyoto-Yodobashi shopping centre, where we found pants in Uniqlo, some English language manga in Ogaki Bookshop and lunch. Seb had the chicken katsu. I kept up my record of eating more beef on this trip than I have in a year. 

Home for another nap (these early mornings trying to beat the crowds are killing me), then we went into Kyoto city centre, the first chance for Anna and the boys to have a look around. The Pokémon Centre proved an oddly helpful place to patch another hole in Seb’s packing by picking up a couple of pairs of socks. Then a restaurant in the by now nearly empty Nishiki Market provided the sustenance to get us home. 


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