Monday, November 12, 2007

Too Little, Too Late

I just found out that a particular chain here - as in one every three blocks, or so it seems - has WiFi access.

I went to every Starbucks, Tully's Coffee, Doutour (a Japanese coffeehouse chain), Seattle's Best - you name it - looking for a WiFi sticker on the door. And who has it? The American fucking embassy.

McDonald's that is. Golden arches. Semi-beef hamburgers.


On the other hand, I really don't have much to complain about. Another day in Kyoto is pretty much another day in heaven, as far as I'm concerned. Who cares if I can't get online? (I mean, besides the folks back at the office expecting stuff from me...)

We headed out by train to Fushimi-Inari to check out the shrine of the same name. Keen observers will notice that it contains the word inari, as in the type of sushi that's a fried tofu skin stuffed with rice. (Not to mention porn star Inari Vachs, but as a good little blog reader, you have no idea who she is... right?) Anyway, it's no coincidence that inari is in the name. No, not because they film adult movies here - although it would make a magnificent setting - but because the shrine was originally dedicated to food. Rice and sake, in particular, but regarded as a place to pray for abundance in food - and now business success - in general.

Fushimi-Inari's claim to fame are its thousands upon thousands of torii - those are those shinto shrine archways, here painted bright orange. They're laid one after the other, taking up around 2.5 miles of length up and around the mountainside. It would take two hours just to walk the whole tunnel of torii, but Makoto and I were more than happy to just do the first leg. Of course, he was happy to oblige me the time it took to figure out the settings to shoot in the jacked up, ever-changing light conditions.

Fortunately, once we were about ready to go, the sun came out cooperatively for a good while, including during most of our visit to Higashiyama, particularly the Kiyomizu Dera temple. It's a sprawling, hilly complex - including a nasty vertical ascent to the entrance, but worth all the sweaty footsteps. It contains imagery that's pure Kyoto. Gorgeous temples, breathtaking mountain views, and real people saying real prayers and doing real quirky things.

It's also home to the "Love Temple," where young couples and the hopelessly romantic go to say prayers for the future. It's good for those already in love as well, so I went there and bought a little sumthin' sumthin' for Alannah, with the money going as an offering to whatever gods are responsible. Yeah, I'm sappy like that.

As night fell, we moved on to Kodai-Ji, a gorgeous temple that's all about the gardens surrounding it. At night, it's lit up, and with the colors of the fall foliage it's an almost surreal, otherworldly place to be. From a colorfully lit-up temple to shiny ponds to a striking green bamboo forest, it's a feast for the eyes in much the same way as Kyoto ryori is for the mouth.

Our last thing before hunting down an internet connection was to hunt down geisha. Their primary feeding grounds: Kyoto Gion (old town), whose narrow, lantern-lined streets are their natural habitat. Makoto told me to have my camera ready as he took me down a tiny, seemingly abandoned street, each doorway with a red and white lantern signifying the presence of geishas. I guess it's a red lamp district. Har har. Anyway, we laid in wait, hoping to snap a shot or two of the elusive geisha, but with the rain falling and all, none made an appearance. After I'd put my lens cap back on, I saw what looked like a geisha quickly came out of a door and darted into a dark, narrow alley.

I'm starting to think that geishas are a long-held myth or urban legend, not unlike Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and straight Republican senators. If anyone has any evidence to the contrary, please dish it up.

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