100 Happy Days / Day 64: Day 4 in Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Shrine, otherwise known as the many-many-torii-gates place, is one of the famous attractions in Kyoto which we hadn’t covered so far.

Since Thomas has kindly lent me his bicycle again, I decide to go there and explore! It is the first time I am venturing out of the Kyoto city map, to somewhere much further south.

I reach earlier than expected and the place is packed with tourists. I hear familiar snatches of English and Chinese around me. I also buy a fish cream pancake for extra energy during the climb! Or maybe because I just can’t resist it.

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My Oxfam Trailwalker Japan team has just done some serious night training in my absence, climbing up hundreds of storeys of apartment flats in Singapore, so I am looking forward to also do my part by finishing this climb and visit all the torii gates!

There are so many gates as worshippers can actually book and pay for a gate, as their way of offering. These two girls are enthusiastically and tirelessly counting every single gate. So far they just reached a hundred!

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On the way down the hill, a stall selling eggs caught my eye. I could not understand what the sign said, but I thought perhaps it may be 茶叶蛋 (tea-boiled). Turns out it is just a normal boiled egg! But it still taste hot and good. I realize that everything is nice when you really want it to be nice.

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As I reach the foot of the hill, I see a lady bringing out her toy and taking a photo of it with a giant torii gate in the background. I have read that there are even people who have made a business out of helping others to bring the clients’ favorite stuffed toys out to travel when the clients themselves cannot go. Wonder how it feels like to live vicariously through a little stuffed toy going on a crazy adventure! Wait. Maybe Kenneth will know something about how that feels!

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Churros star was not open the last time round I went there. Today I have better luck! 2 churro sticks with cinnamon sugar and milk dip. Yums! The owner’s mood also seems better compared to the last time round I was there. I wonder why, until this lady staff walks out. Wow. She is really the prettiest Japanese I have seen on all my trips! Sorry that I can’t get any close up shots 😛

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At Gion, the district famous for the days of geishas and maikos, it seems to be a good day out for both young and old in traditional gear!

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Entering an old ceramics shop; I notice a poster for Raku Museum. It looks really interesting, so I decide to head over there before it closes. Museums tend to close really early at 4 – 5pm here! When I enter the museum, immediately I feel a wonderful sense of peace.

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Raku is a style of pottery developed by a man named Chojiro for the Japanese tea master Sen Rikyu, and the kanji word for Raku means happy. At some point, it became the name of the family that produced the Raku wares. Looking at the retrospective works of this family of potters over 450 years, I only wish I can hold and admire them, instead of just looking at them behind the glass.

There are books available for browsing and I pick up one written by the 15th generation head of Raku family, who is still alive today. He sounds like an emotionally torn soul; wrestling with the immense weight of his ancestors and family name, while trying to unleash what is constantly trying to get out of him which he is not always able to control.

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In his youthful rebellion, he did not wish to do pottery and escaped to Italy for a while. When he came back, he never once asked his father to teach him; nor did his father attempt to. They would work silently together, and the father would let him figure it all by himself. This is amazing considering the long uninterrupted successive line of the famed Raku name. At his deathbed, he told his son, “zen monks and chawan makers are one and the same”. With that, he breathed his last.

I really like this 15th generation pottery master. With poetry and raging emotions, his works have an energy that is alive and imprinted on his works. Sometimes, perhaps, it is not tradition that matters, but the perpetuation of the undying human spirit that compels us to create!

The Kyoto Imperial Palace is nearby, so I head over with my bicycle. Spring has come!! There are rows and rows of trees which are in early bloom, and some have already blossomed. So happy!!

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Happily, I cycle back, looking forward to resting and having dinner. When I reach and try the door, I realize to my horror that it is locked. Cycling back to the main streets, I try to find a phone to call Thomas and Satomi. Both do not pick up. What do I do now?

Feeding my hungry stomach is a priority and so I head to the main station to grab a bite. Thank goodness I have the bicycle! After an hour, I try calling again but no pick up. I remember that Thomas is at band practice so he probably can’t hear his phone.

Cycling back to the house, I cross my mental fingers and try the door again. Still no luck. Tapping on the house wifi, I seek solace in messaging Kenneth. “Go out and have fun somewhere!” he encourages me. “Otherwise you’ll just feel miserable!” I am tired out from a day of climbing and cycling and I just really want to have a shower and go to bed though! Nonetheless, after some internal wrestling, I reckon that it is better than loitering out here in the fading light and looking suspicious.

As I leave the bike to walk slowly to the station, I pray hard that I won’t be left stranded till 1am, when Thomas is due to return from his Livehouse work. I am almost about to take the subway when I see a familiar face – Satomi!!! Oh my goodness, I am so happy!

We hug each other and decide that this serendipity calls for a celebration! We head to the supermarket and get some fruit beers and food. I thank God for the perfect timing! Any later and I would have been off to eat and drink my way alone in the izakaya of Kyoto. I am saved! And happy!

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