Japan holiday – day 8 – gates and deer

Today was a day trip out of Kyoto to Fushimi Inari and then onto Nara.

It’s a quick walk from the station to the start of the shrine. We’d barely started the walk into the shrine before a teacher came and asked us if his students could practise their English and ask us some questions (little did we know then that answering kid’s questions would be a reoccurring theme today). The girls were in early high school and after some giggles and shyness asked us where we were from and why we had come to Japan. They were very happy to be able to have a conversation in English and were very sweet taking photos with us before we continued our walk.

Fushimi Inari is famous for it’s bright orange torii gates that line the paths winding up the mountain. They are so dense it’s like walking in an orange forest.

We didn’t know what the writing was but I’ve looked it up since and it is the names of the people or corporations that have donated for the gates. The shrine itself is for the god of rice but it is also the patron of business.

The gates line all the paths and the steps go up and down all over the mountain. Along the way there are shrines and small shops that sell tokens for you to leave at the shrines as well as food and drink. The last time I visited I was “adopted” by an elderly gentleman and his granddaughter who were doing their annual visit to the shrine. Depending on which year it was they walked in a different direction and visited different shrines. At each shrine they prayed, left a token and sometimes had a drink or something sweet depending on what they were asking for or saying thanks for.

This time it was much quieter with less visitors. We spotted the cats which seem to be very much encouraged at the shrine but they were always too speedy to get a photo of.

After a few hours of walking up and around and down the mountain we made our way back towards the station. As we were leaving we spotted a few runners heading up towards the gates. We’d said earlier it’s amazing exercise to walk your way through the torii, I can only imagine that running it would be tough (I tried to look up to see if there were times to beat by a local run club or anything like that but so far have failed to find anything. I bet there is some kind of competition amongst local runners though).

From Fushimi Inari we went to Nara. You can catch a train from Fushimi Inari to Nara but it’s faster to catch a train back to Kyoto and then another train to Nara. This way you can be on the express and it is much faster.

Nara is famous for it’s wild deer. They wander freely about and while they are not tame they aren’t exactly wild.

There are even signs warning you that they may attack.

They’ll take food from your hand and there are stores selling deer biscuits for 150yen (don’t try eating the deer biscuit it tastes pants according to the Englishman). Actually speaking of things that taste pants don’t try grape fanta.

It is possibly the most unrefreshing drink of all time and actually tastes purple and leaves you with a weird sugar headache.

But back to the deer, they’ll pose for photos too.

From the moment we came into the park we’d been accosted by different groups of school children. In groups of about 6 they’d come over and ask

“excuse me, do you have a moment?” then wait for you to answer and if you said you had some time they’d answer with “we are from Uruu elementary school in Gifu, here is Gifu” and they’d show you a little map of Japan with Gifu coloured in on it. They’d go on to introduce themselves, ask your name, shake your hand and  ask you “what Japanese what food did we like?” and “what country were we from”. We confused them slightly when we said Australia when the Englishman’s accent was so very English so in the end we said England and Australia. They also thought it was hilarious that I liked tofu.

All of their questions came out of a workbook their teachers had put together for them for their school trip. It looked like each day they had to go and find visitors and ask them different questions. Once they’d finished with their questions they asked us to sign their books.

The groups of kids were all over the place and as there were less visitors than normal they were practically waiting in line to get to talk to us. At one point we had maybe ten of them in a circle asking their questions when a deer stuck it’s head into the group. The Englishman tried to gently push it’s head away as a few of the kids were a bit scared by the big animal. It however stubbornly refused to be turned away and grabbed one of the kids workbooks in it’s mouth and started to chew. Both of us were now trying to get the deer to give up it’s book while the kids panicked a bit. Finally got the book away from the deer and it had eaten all but a few pages!

The little boy whose book it was ran off crying to tell his teacher what happened. While it was sad to see him upset the fact you could tell the teacher a deer ate your homework was really funny. We tried hard not to laugh as he was clearly very upset. The rest of the kids took it in stride and continued with their questions.

To say thank you each group of kids gave us some origami which was super cool. We got flowers and butterflies, cranes, boxes and even a wiener dog!

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