Day 4 Kyoto, Fushimi Inari

Dear friends and family,

Day 4 After 2 days at our beautiful, but somewhat westernized ryokan, Watazen, in central Kyoto, we had to move. Lewis and Chandra went to an over-the -top comfortable Western-style hotel nearby and Don and I went to another ryokan in the hills in the SE part of Kyoto, the most gorgeous area, filled with temples and gardens and beautiful small shops and estates along narrow, twisty streets, lots of geisha strolling around. We think they must be paid by the city or local merchants, as they were so ever present and happy to have their photos taken. However, there is a Japanese holiday happening this weekend and Monday, so it may be because of that. There are many Japanese out in kimono also. Our ryokan could hardly be called luxe, more like staying in someone's house. A shared bath and toilet, but a huge tatami matted room, probably 40 to 50 tatami mats, which is how the Japanese used to measure room size, and shoji screens with gardens on both sides of the room.

Probably most of the people in this montage were not born when Don and I last visited Japan. Yikes.

After a short stroll around our neighborhood, we met Lewis and Chandra at Fushimi-Inari, a place of literally thousands of red Torii gates. There are over 4000 of them, put up by local businesses. They follow a walking path up a wooded hillside for about 3.5 miles, at times so densely packed that they almost block out the light. They say this was Christo's inspiration for his project in Central Park. At the start of the path, there was a festival atmosphere, a play with darling children in Heian costume, doing what seemed to us a great job in projecting their voices and characters. Nearby a Buddhist ceremony with priest and worshippers was taking place, the priest's chant a counterpoint to the children's lines. On the way we saw many, many shrines with little fox sculptures, what we think was a Buddhist funeral with priests in high black hats and robes, playing mostly flutes. There was also what appeared to be a Tibetan or Nepali monk in the retinue. Thank you, Edie Caldwell and Kenji and Gail Nanao for recommending this amazing site to us.

Finally, what I think is a pretty hilarious picture; it shows from L to R an unidentified photographer, Era, Chandra and Lewis all on the prowl for the perfect image or images. And, of course, Don is taking the picture of us. Thank God the Japanese are fanatic photographers, so they hardly blink an eye at our non-stop picture-taking.

If you would like to see more photographs, Lewis has posted his on the web:

Love to all and don't let the Republicans get you down,

Era and Don