You Had Me at Meat Pancake

What do you do with a B.A. in Religion? Totally geek out at shrines and temples in Kyoto.

First priority for me was to see Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine.

Not familiar with Shinto (Japanese folk religion)? This is the perfect jumping-off point.

First, you start with at torii, a wooden gate signaling the entrance of a sacred place.

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Next, is purification. Grab a ladle and rinse your left hand, then right, rinse your mouth, left hand again, then stand the ladle upright so the water runs down the handle.

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Don’t actually drink the water!

Now you’re ready to make a wish! Approach the shrine, toss in a coin (the bigger the denomination, the better chance you have of your wish coming true), bow twice, clap twice, press your hands together and make a wish. Bow one more time. Easy as that!

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For bigger requests, use paper or wooden tokens

Ok, onto the fun part. This shrine is situated on a mountain. The entire trail takes approx. 2 hours to hike. Most of it is marked by torii structures purchased by businesses for good luck.

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It’s a long haul uphill. Wear comfy shoes. Bring water. Take breaks.

There are lots of little shrines to look at and also some shops selling snacks and water along the way if you get tired.

So this is me at the top.

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I can’t feel my legs.

And this is an old man we saw a couple times delivering 50 lbs of supplies to all the little shops at the top.

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He wins.

Having got my workout for the next couple months, it was time to find food.

On the other side of town is the Zen Buddhist Tenryuji Temple.

In the gardens, you will find Shigetsu, a restaurant serving Buddhist lunch or shojin ryori. Reservations are recommended, but you shouldn’t have trouble just walking up in the off-season.

Typically, there are 2 or 3 set menus to choose from but today they only had the Yuki menu. The meal came with rice, soup, and 5 side dishes.

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Side dish prepared with harmonious looks and flavors.

Do not let the label of vegetarian/vegan scare you away. This food is treasure. Each piece is chosen precisely to compliment the rest. It is simply magical.

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no tables here

The experience does not end with the meal. There is still an entire garden to stroll around as you digest.

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One more temple to visit! This one was right down the street from our hostel.

Sanjusangendo Temple is home to  Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Considered one of Japan’s national treasures, the main hall is full of 1001 golden statues (no photos inside). Devotees may say prayers, light incense, or light candles. Beautiful.

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Wishes outside the temple

Once a year, the temple hosts an archery contest. The person to shoot the most arrows in 24 hours is the winner.

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Exterior of hall where contest is held

Putting my major into practice has made me sleepy. Back to the hostel for a cup of tea and laundry.

There’s a restaurant nearby that the hostel recommended called Donguri. They specialize in Okinomiyaki.  What is it? Check it out.

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Essentially it is a giant meat pancake. Everything at the restaurant is served on a hot griddle at your table. The idea is to share portions of everything and the griddle keeps it warm as you talk and drink. Great for building community, horrible for your long-term health.

I think I’m calling it tonight…


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