Saturday, 14 May 2016

Fushimi Inari Taisha, A Night Visit

Mid-September last year, we visited Fushimi Inari Taisha during our trip for my birthday run in Tango Ultra-marathon.

On day two of our trip, we spent the day visiting Arashiyama and allocated time for the shrine in the evening.
Fushimi Inari Taisha is an important Shinto shrine in Kyoto and famous for the rows and rows (thousands) of vermilion torii gates that lead into the sacred Mount Inari.

Visiting the shrine at night is a totally different experience from visiting it during the day and with less visitors around (there were just a few and we almost got the place to ourselves), one gets to spend quiet time at the shrine and contemplate more.
The shrine is dedicated to Inari; the Shinto the god of rice and sake and foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers which is why we could see foxes dotting the shrine complex. 

Seen in the fox's mouth is the key to the rice granaries. 
Stern foxes guarding the gates can be seen quite a lot at Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Beware visitors. While foxes are considered helpful, they are known to bewitch people too. ^^
From the entrance we walked into the main shrine building (honden) and made our way to the back of the building to the entrance of the hiking trail with  rows and rows of torii gates covering it, called the Senbon Torii (thousands of torii gates).
There are two parallel row of gates and we just chose one to enter.

Yeah, we brought along our headlamps just in case in got really dark. But we actually switched it on more because we need the lighting to take photos. 
The gates along the trail has inscriptions on it. These torii gates are donated and the donator's name and date of donation inscribed on the pillars.
With the donation starting from 400,000 for a small sized gates to millions for a large one. We saw those really itsy bitsy torii gates too. 

The trail can feel quite eerie if I'm doing this alone. Eerie but strangely calming too.
According to guide books, the hike should take around 2-3 hours from the start to the peak and back down so although I was at first skeptical about covering the stairs up to the peak; what with an utra-marathon in two days' time and all, we walked up the stairs. 

But I told Hubby that we're NOT going to push it.

Learnt my lesson after hiking Mount Takao two days before Fujisan Marathon with a bad knee. Hur hur
Some were steep. Some were flat.
There were a few young couple out for a date. A group of foreign visitors with their guide. And a lone runner doing his training.
A quiet night and we were left with mostly our thoughts while we tackled the stairs.
Ema at one of the mid-way shrines.

With anime illustration.
Halfway up and we were greeted with this view of the city at the Yotsutsuji Intersection.

Yup, we have a bit more to cover.

Going down later, we chose an easier route for our walk back and avoided much of the stairs and tackled the pavement instead. 
 A road crossing where the train track pass-by too.

The night was already very quiet when we finished our visit.
And what else to do?

Head to the station, hop on a train and return to our hotel to rest.

The next day we were travelling to Toyooka where we stayed for two nights. It was our base as we needed to stay somewhere near to the starting line of Tango Ultra Marathon.

That, in my next post.

I sure hope I'll update my blog sooner than how long this post took. ^^!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Chiba Aqualine Marathon 2016

A race in Chiba which will be held on Oct 23, 2016 caught my attention recently.
Interesting fact about the Chiba Aqualine Marathon is that runners will run on runs on the bridge expressway over Tokyo Bay which connects Chiba and Kanagawa prefecture.

Course map
The highlight of the event is the beautiful scenery enjoyed over the bridge, big panorama of blue ocean and sky in the fine season of autumn. 


Elevation map
And Chiba Aqualine Marathon offers not only the marathon (42.195km) distance but also the half-marathon and wheelchair half-marathon too. 
Applications will be accepted online from Tuesday, April 5 at 12:00PM to Tuesday, April 26 at 5:00PM. Although the slots for foreign runners are limited, almost 100% can be accepted on special quotas for us and not go through the ballot system.

Full marathon total participants are capped at 12,000 runners and half-marathon (plus the HM for wheelchair) is at 5,000.

However, it is a first-come, first-serve basis so do register early if you want to join the marathon.

For more details, head to :
English site: http://chiba-aqualine-marathon.com/2016/en)
and also, some of the running information sites :   http://marathons.ahotu.com/event/chiba-aqualine-marathon-half-marathon-wheelchair-half#event

Maybe I'll see you there too? ;-)

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Heroine Of Meiji Restoration Era And An Amiable For Saga People

In Kameyama Park in Arashiyama, Kyoto, we chanced upon a bronze statue under a shady tree. Hubby didn't give it a second glance but I decided to stop because I wondered about the statue of the old lady there.
From the plaque nearby (in Japanese, English and Korean), the statue is of Tsuzaki Muraoka-no-Tsubone (1786-1873), the daughter of Sakyo Tsuzaki and was a court lady-in-waiting and a member of the imperial loyalists towards the end of the shogunate area.

The Statue was designed in 1928 by Sakatani Ryonoshin, and the model for casting was crafted by Nakamuta Sanjiro. 

Tsubone was on friendly terms with the priest Gessho, Ugai Kichizaemon of Mito and others, functioning as a contact among loyalists and between loyalists and court nobles. She was particularly supportive in activity by Saigo Takamore, and others. For her involvement, she was arrested and exiled twice.

Later, coming back to Kyoto, she reconstructed the Jikishian Temple and lived on its grounds for the remainder of her life and educated local children.

Although Muraoka-no-Tsubone is regarded as a heroine of the Meiji restoration, in her later years she was also an amiable mother to the people of Saga.

No wonder I felt compelled to stop for the statue. Such a strong woman!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Moon Crossing Bridge In Kyoto

Our first day in Kyoto was spent in Arashiyama and after a quick brunch, we took a train to Hankyu Arashiyama station.
First, a leisurely walk and a stop at the famous Togetsukyo Bridge and then we walked along the river to get to another famed spot in Kyoto; the Bamboo Groves.

The Togetsukyo Bridge has a 1,000 years of history behind it.
The Togetsukyo Bridge  (the moon crossing bridge) is a landmark in Arashiyama. The bridge was named by the retired Emperor Kameyama of the Kamakura period (1185 to 1333). The story was that he went boating on the river under a full moon, and remarked that the moon looked like it was crossing the bridge. Or something like that...
The bridge was originally built during the Heian Period (794-1185) and is believed to be built in 836, when the priest Dosho (a disciple of Kobo Dashi, founder of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism) was conducting construction repair work along the Oi River.

The current bridge which was rebuilt in 1934, appears wooden but has columns and beams all made of reinforced concrete.
I have to say, unless we know the history of the bridge, the bridge is just a bridge that happens to have lots of visitors walking across it. Sorry! That's me, the uncouth tourist talking!
And oh yes, plus a number of visitors either in normal wear or clad in traditional kimonos being pulled on a "jinriksha" (pulled rickshaw) across the bridge and soaking in the lovely scenery along the river.
Nearby the Bridge, there's a row of shop selling souvenirs and tea-houses and cafes too. We relaxed on the riverbank and enjoyed the scenery and had a simple picnic, bought at a konbini near the train station.
In 2005, the Arashiyama Preservation Society Hydro-Power station was built along the river. Water from the Katsura River is used to generate electricity for the foot lights illuminating the Bridge as the sun sets.

We missed the night view during our visit in Sep 2015 but maybe we''ll get to see it one day, in future. ^^
We strolled and saw pleasure boats glided by, piloted by skilled rowers. There were visitors on paddle boats and kayaks seen too, as we made our way along the river.
We soak in the green foliage (it was still summer when we were there) and enjoy the cooling breeze.
The persimmon trees that dotted the area were just fruiting.
It wasn't until we reached the Bamboo Groves that we came into groups of other tourists who were also visiting the area.

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