Pop Life Circus


Okinawa POP Circus 2015, Jody welcome to POP Circus

“Pop life, Everybody needs a thrill

Pop life We all got a space 2 fill

Pop life Everybody can’t be on top

But life it ain’t real funky Unless it’s got that pop” ~ Prince, Pop Life song lyrics

 “Every country gets the circus it deserves. Spain gets bullfights. Italy gets the Catholic Church. America gets Hollywood.” ~ Erica Jong

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And Okinawa gets PoP Circus’ “World Circus Festival”, a performance under the Big Top with lends an air of mystique and excitement for kids of all ages.  Established in 1996, PoP Circus – the “Pursuit of Pleasure” – consists of over 30 performers making up various acts, and is eagerly received in Okinawa as an innovative and extravagant performance.

Okinawa POP Circus 2015, world circus festival WM

While PoP Circus is marketed as a spectacular to amaze and thrill, it will appear initially as nothing more than a low-scale, poor quality knockoff of the much more well-known and praise-worthy Cirque du Soleil. It occurs in, however, a much smaller venue, one that creates an intimacy between spectator and performer under the not easily missed illuminated purple Big Top. While it may lack the powerful live music, overdone intrigue and gaudy costumes, there is at least no obscure French storyline to try and decipher….

Okinawa POP Circus 2015, Jody at PoP circus big-top

16513_705775022868557_3321045115409053877_nOkinawa POP Circus 2015, snack banners bilingual WMSome of the starring attractions include a pair of romantic aerial ballet dancers who circle the audience while performing acrobatics suspended by flowing ribbon anchored to Big Top’s overhead. Two Chinese Acrobats perform an incredibly breathtaking feat of balance, strength and contortion in a display of stamina and grace that is hard to beat and which rivals any of the type I’ve ever seen.

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Really, the Confederate Battleflag?!?

Really, the Confederate Battleflag?!?

Of course a circus wouldn’t be a circus without a spastic collection of bungling clowns. While the festival’s are billed as comically entertaining, I still find clowns – the whole idea – creepy at best. Kids, however, seems to always approve through their joyous laughter and smiling faces. And the Japanese, as innocent as they are, expressed loud approval to the clowning around.

No, Clown, you can't have my cotton candy....

No, Clown, you can’t have my cotton candy….

10690090_1050498828300807_4268954099007393626_n11017874_709183169194409_8864077044129416114_nYes there is a dog show starring lots of dogs large and small, and while it may be somewhat predictable, it’s fast pace of tricks one after another make it a surety as a crowd-pleaser.  A young flying trapeze troop from Australia, the Flying Aces, performs almost 40 feet overhead, and a group of Russians pretending to be Celtic (go figure) perform on a set of swings that we never had on the playground as kid!.

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Okinawa POP Circus 2015, souvenir book WMOkinawa POP Circus 2015, circus souvenirsMaking a prolonged stop in Okinawa every two or three years, they are now performing at Onoyama Park in Naha City. But don’t wait too much longer; they are only here through the 6th of April! The World Circus Festival is running its 2-hour show daily except Wednesdays, with weekday shows at 1320 and 1900, Saturday shows at 1030, 1320, and 1900, while Sunday shows are at 1030, 1320, and 1600. The Circus tent is located at the eastern corner of Onoyama park in Naha (). Beware there is very limited parking available at the park and surrounding vicinity, but a convenient monorail stop is located adjacent to the park.

Lots of Yummy Goodies!

Lots of Yummy Goodies!

Okinawa POP Circus 2015, show costs and timesOkinawa POP Circus 2015, welcome to Pop Circus WMAdvance tickets for adults are ¥2,500 (¥2,800 at the gate), while tickets for kids age three through junior high school are ¥1,200 (¥1,500 at the gate).  Special Boxes for up to 4 are available for extra fees of ¥5,000 and ¥4,000, depending on exactly how close to the stage you want to be seated.  Reserved bleacher seats with center views are an additional ¥800, the option we elected since the cheap seats’ views are pretty badly blocked by various Big Top support structures. The official website is www.pop-circus.co.jp/ and offers minimal information in English. If you want a sneak-peak of the performances, check out their Facebook page (in Japanese).

See you there!

See you there!

Pi Day in Japan, a Math-lete’s Dream!


“Curves:  the loveliest distance between two points.” ~ Mae West

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William Jones, an 18th century self-taught mathematician, was the first to realize that the decimal 3.141592…, the number approximating the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter, never ends, but continues on randomly without any repetition. “The exact proportion between the diameter and the circumference can never be expressed in numbers,” he wrote. He recognized that this important proportion needed its own symbol, and thus began every math-lete’s love affair with pi….

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Saturday, March 14, 2015, was “National” Pi Day, a sometimes rational celebration of the irrational figure that describes the most sublime feature of circles. National Pi Day, although wholly unofficial, is a holiday that, in my opinion, serves three important if not incongruent purposes. For fellow mathletes like me, it’s a chance to celebrate a love of numbers naturally found in nature, proof that god in whatever form you believe (or not), is a geometrician. For those analogs challenged by this digital slant of the world, the holiday offers at the same time a chance to partake in the more literal if not delicious culinary desserts of the same-sounding homonym. And here in Japan, it coincides with the celebration of “White Day,” the Far East’s formal equivalent of Valentine’s Day, but this one only for the lady-folk. See White Day for a full explanation of how Japan interprets the West’s day of love and lovers.

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But this particular year hosts no ordinary Pi Day. In fact, March 14th of this year marks a once-in-a-century occurrence: at precisely 09:26:53 wherever you happen to be (local time), the date and time will read 3.14.15 9:26:53. I hear you asking, “Whoop-dee-do Basil, what’s it all mean!?” Those ten digits are exactly the first 10 digits of pi! This rather random coincidence ignites passion across the globe, and for most of us, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime affair worthy of marking in some odd fashion or another.

What goes well with Alien Crop Circle?  Pi!  Or so it seems....

Crop Circles even enjoy Pi, or so it seems….

But what’s so special about the non-edible version of pi that seemingly connects so easily to so many people? It’s not like differential equations (i.e., calculus) are on anyone’s hit parade, or that a statistical two-tail alpha test of significance rocks everyone’s boat. No, pi strikes a chord with people of all backgrounds, educations, and cultures. Part of its allure lies in its very simplicity, infused with the mysterious flair of things supernatural: a circle, nature’s simple shape of infinite perfection, is defined by something that can never be known with complete precision, so much so that we represent it only as a symbol. Pi is not just irrational, it’s transcendental, and its infinite value holds true no matter the circle in question.

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Almost everything is in Japanese

Almost everything is in Japanese

Okinawa White Day 2015, Mary's leaf pies are deliciousOf course Pi Day every year coincides with “White Day” here in Japan, a fun-filled day of candies and gifts for girlfriends and wives (may they never meet), which Jody and I celebrate in style and excess in some surely rational approximation of what the Japanese irrationally may or may not do. It’s hard to even know what you’re buying when everything is in Japanese, none of which can easily be read (even the Google photo-translate feature fails miserably). Thank goodness for the samples which are openly displayed in most stores! Most of the photos featured here are from the gifts Jody received this White Day as small Far Eastern Flirtations reminiscent of my growing love for and steadfast commitment to her since first meeting back in the late summer of 2010.

White Day presents for Jody

White Day presents for Jody

Okinawa White Day 2015, 3-14 White DayAnd in that meeting there is even deeper meaning for us personally, one more delicious than pie, more intriguing than the most sublime mathematics, and certainly something worth celebrating often throughout the year. Our own personal Ultimate Pi Day, one of Epic proportions and profound meaning. You see, when Jody and I first met, it was for a “pie date.” Let me elucidate.

Flowers on White Day

Flowers on White Day

Okinawa White Day 2015, fun and delicious gummy-aid for nurse JodyMeeting online through Match.com in early 2010, Jody and I had corresponded on and off for about 6 months prior to her transfer from Cuba to Pensacola, Florida, which happened later that summer. We were certainly interested in each other, but the timing of Jody’s arrival combined with my own schedule and our uncoordinated travel plans proved a challenge that would frustrate any attempt in jump-starting any type of relationship.

White Day Wrapping!

White Day Wrapping!

Okinawa White Day 2015, surprise flowers fcee7d6bf94730deb82a971eb4776dbbBut I was eager to do just that. Besides being a woman with almost every quality I was searching for, and certainly there was clear and unambiguous chemistry present, Jody’s curves – from her enticing bluest of blue eyes, to the arc of her smile, to the sexy arch of her foot, to her fertility doll geometry – her curves come close to outstripping the very transcendental nature of pi itself! As Mae West so perfectly stated, “the loveliest distance between two points is a curve,” and Jody’s are any mathlete’s dream.

Spring Time Happy Joy Chocolates

Spring Time Happy Joy Chocolates

Okinawa White Day 2015, Gugelhupf cakeJody had arrived in town while I was away on a business trip, and the day after my return she was traveling up north on a couple of weeks of leave. While she was to be on leave, I was starting my own much-needed vacation, a 3-week trip to New Zealand to skydive, ice climb, and do other things extreme. It turned out that we had only one night consisting of just a couple of hours to try and hook up…but not for that kind of pie (wink). If we didn’t get a chance to see each other on that particular Wednesday night, it would be about 5 weeks until we had a chance to see each other again. Neither of us was willing to wait.

Cloisonné Tea Pot Gift Set

Cloisonné Tea Pot Gift Set

Okinawa White Day 2015, cupcake chocolates shpolaWe made plans to meet, and since she lived way out in “west-west Pensacola” (Beulah, FL), and because of the limited time we had to dedicate to a first date, we decided to meet locally for pie. Jody likes pie (and ALL kinds of desserts as it turns out!), and commented that she had had a hard time finding any good pie while stationed for the last 18 months at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Favorite Framed Photos for Jody's Office

Favorite Framed Photos for Jody’s Office

Okinawa White Day 2015, Warming Heart CommunicationSo, I chose a local diner mid-way between where we lived. It was an easy place for Jody to find in the dark back roads of quasi-Alabama, and an easy drive using simple primary roads. I believe we agreed on a time around 9 pm, and upon our arrival (we were both early – a good sign!), we found the diner closed…of course. Pensacola is a small, conservative town, and many local businesses close down early. This Mom & Pop joint was no exception.

White Day Far East Flirtations

White Day Far East Flirtations

Okinawa White Day 2015, beautiful chocolatesCracker Barrel was nearby, an eatery sure to have delicious homemade pie, but it too was also closing. In that part of town there are not many other options. Being out on a first-date, I needed desperately to leave a lasting impression while doing my darndest to woo this woman. I had a feeling that boyfriends, past, present and potentially future were part of her travels plans starting the very next day. Luckily for me, there was a Ruby Tuesdays nearby, and although I’m not one to turn to chain restaurants for food or value, this was one place that stayed open serving dependable, late-night dessert. We were quickly seated at a table for two, and our great love affair started right then and there, blossoming over the pie we were served. A truly epic Pie Day for the books.

Okinawa White Day 2015, Jody with her presents

Like my fondness for Jody, pi/pie days of every flavor have all become even more magically intoxicating. And as surely as pi continues on and on forever, so too does my love for this woman called “Wife.” Happy White Day Jody King!

At least there's chocolate with booze!

At least there’s chocolate with booze!

Now, if we only could find really GOOD pie here in Japan! (wink)

Happy White Day, Wife

Happy White Day, Wife

Best Burger in the Far East? Malone’s Made in China


 

Malone's Pub-Like Storefront

Malone’s Pub-Like Storefront

There’s a problem with finding a good hamburger in Asian. They just don’t get it here. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t have ‘Merican beef, or they are just philosophically opposed to ‘Merican mimicry. What is served as a burger is really just, well, meatloaf, referred to as “hamburg” throughout Japan. Read McDonald’s Can Kiss My Ass for more concerning this particular affliction for which there seems to be no inoculation. Until finding Café Captain Kangaroo this past weekend in the northern reaches of Okinawa with their fabulous array of deliciously hand-crafted burgers, the best beef patty with the usual accoutrements we had the pleasure of devouring was…

Made in China.

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At Malone’s, in Shanghai, to be exact. Described as an “American Café,” Malone’s is home to one of the most extensive burger menus in that far-eastern Asian metropolis. Located conveniently close to a few Western embassies and consulates right in the middle of the Tongren Lu district of Shanghai just around the corner from the Shanghai Center, Malone’s has been described – note the past tense – as “packed with expats and the out-of-town business crowd.” The three-story establishment used to offer differing venues, where a Filipino cover band used to play on the 2nd floor most nights, and the 3rd floor “Loft” offered a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. The extensive bar and the outdoor seating areas hinted at quite a maximum occupancy, but on the cold fall evening we visited, no one was sitting outside, and only about ¼ of the indoor seats were taken.

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These characterizations all share one important similarity: their tenses are all in the past. It seems that although Malone’s was at one time the place to be for Westerners visiting Shanghai, complete with an award-winning burger, today the bar/eatery is a mere shadow of its former self.

Past Awards Quite Dated

Past Awards Quite Dated

However, having arrived very late in Shanghai after traveling all afternoon and evening, Jody and I were hungry for a late dinner before bed. Our local Chinese guide, asking if we were interested in a good burger, recommended this particular place, which happened to be within walking distance from our hotel. Normally we both shy away from American food and chains traveling in Asia, but the lure and lore of a REAL burger was too much to pass up. Fifteen minutes later we were walking into Malone’s, and within another 15 and after a round of cold Chinese Tiger beers, a truly wonderful burger did arrive. It certainly didn’t take 15 to devour.

While the Atmosphere is Lacking, the Burgers are NOT!

While the Atmosphere is Lacking, the Burgers are NOT!

Malone’s opened its doors about 20 years ago as an international extension of a Vancouver, Canada-based chain of the same name. As the first western-owned and run restaurant outside of high-end hotels in the city, it was originally managed by a group of Canadian expats who wanted to bring western-style dining in a neighborhood-pub setting to Shanghai. It appears that the change in management from foreigners to locals has been a change for the worse. The bar is rather dirty, with the 2nd and 3rd floors closed during our visit. We were seated on the 2nd floor, but only after we asked about alternative seating since there were so many smokers and smoke on the first floor. The area clearly hadn’t been used, clean, or refurbished in I would guess at least a year or two. The service was okay, the beer was cold, and the food actually well above par. And all for a reasonable price. It’s unfortunately that this place has taken such a nose-dive.

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I can still recommend the burgers at Malone’s for those that are craving a western-style meal after spending a fair amount of time flirting with mere “hamburg” in the Far East. But I wouldn’t visit the pub looking for atmosphere, music, or any type of night-life…. Read some recent thoroughly trashing reviews at SmartShanghai.com and Trip Advisor.

Map

Address:  255 Tongren Road, near Nanjing Xi Lu; 铜仁路255号, 近南京西路, Shanghai, China

Phone:  86 21 6247 2400

Website:  www.malones.com.cn

Email:  malones@malones.com.cn

METRO:  Jing’an Temple, 15 mins. walk

Hours:  Daily, 10am-2am

Kiss My Ass McDonald’s! Better Burgers at Café Captain Kangaroo


There are MUCH better burger options....

There are MUCH better burger options….

Oh, the shame. Not finishing the best burger found on Okinawa. Especially when my wife and all the rather petite Japanese women surrounding me devoured theirs without issue….

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, storefront hamburger island cafe captina kangaroo

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, no pickles on our burgers!In and Out isn’t part of the in-crowd on Okinawa…mainly since it doesn’t exist here. Apparently there aren’t enough meaty guys on the island to have a Fives Guys. You can get steaks and shakes on Okinawa, but not coincidently enough to have a Steak and Shake. There is an Applebee’s, but it’s on base, overpriced and full of loud and usually overly boisterous Americans watching some inane sporting event. And while they do serve a pretty good burger, at twice the cost and half the taste, it “udderly” fails in comparison to those award-winning beefy concoctions at Captain Kangaroo’s!

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, award-winning burgers

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, opening hours artNow, Jody and I debated whether the burgers there are alone worth the long drive to Nago, and while the outcome is close, we agree there probably needs to be another reason to make the trek. Even if it’s just for the scenic drive up Highway 58. On an island full of “hamburg” joints that serve what amounts to really good meatloaf, a REAL hamburg-ER is a rare and treasured culinary find.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, comfy and casual seating

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, iconic logo in pastels“‘Roo’s” is minimally furnished with an eclectic assortment of comfy chairs and lounging couches. The quick-order counter, at an unusual height that’s not high enough for bar stools and too low for the dining chairs provided, is a great option if you are either in danger of dehydration from uncontrolled salivation or simply on the move and don’t want to wait the 20 minutes we did during high time from 1300-1500.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, counter service bar none

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, street-side signDiners will find themselves surrounded by surfer-themed movie posters and random knickknacks, from an empty SPAM tin repurposed as a napkin holder, to our table’s hamburger warps held in place by an old Kraft Cheese cylinder…. A large selection of Japanese comics are easily selected from a wall of simple bookshelves, and randomly interesting magazines are for the borrowing in the small waiting area.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, waiting area and cashier's counter

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, comfy and casual seating 2Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, anniversary smilesWe were seated in two easy chairs alongside a classic low coffee table of just the right size, an arrangement both casual and comfy at the same time. To top off the café’s relaxed experience, soft reggae and world music plays softly in the background, and for those lucky enough of eating in the back raised corner of the small shop, there is an incomparable view of the East China Sea certainly not found at any burger joint found back home.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, Jody ready for lunch

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, heart-shaped ketchupCafé Captain Kangaroo came to Nago, Okinawa, in 2007, purposed specifically to become an iconic burger shop. The Captain’s family tree is traced all the way back to Osaka, Japan, on Honshu, where the surname was established in 1997 as only a bar; no explanation is given for the rather odd moniker. The staff are all very friendly and cheerful, and good English is widely spoken. During our visit on a lazy almost-Spring Sunday afternoon were about a half and half mix of Japanese and gaijin, all enjoying their beefy meals. There were about five people working during our visit, and their smiles combined with the fun, casual attitude of the place certainly helped to make the burgers even more delicious. Oddly enough, we witnessed one of the staffers eating a late lunch. Their pick off the menu: TACO RICE!

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, no pickles on our burgers!

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, menu masterpiecesOkinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, all decisions involve hamburgersYes, that Okinawan ubiquitous meal is indeed offered, but as one of only eleven mains on the menu – one key to the café’s massive success. The focus is on quality and taste, and with only a few items to master, both are promises made and delivered upon. The menu is offered bilingually in Japanese and English, with most items costing about 1,000 yen or less. Combos can be made by adding in a potato set offering a choice of hashbrowns, wedges with skin, or traditional fries. Drinks can also be added at a “set” price to complete your combination platter.

The Amazing "Sparky" Burger

The Amazing “Sparky” Burger

Jody and I both ordered the “Sparky” burger, and within about 10 minutes, were served a veritable skyscraper of a burger! A home-baked sesame-covered bun grilled crispy and served hot off the griddle, slathered with BBQ sauce (not overdone), a beef patty, cheese (Swiss we believe), tons of fresh, crispy lettuce and juicy tomato, and finally topped with our favorite: an impossibly large serving of crispy deep-fried delicious shoestring onions. The tower was held against toppling by a long bamboo spear, and multiple triangular sandwich holders are provided – and required!

Notice the "Heartfelt" Ketchup!

Notice the “Heartfelt” Ketchup!

Ketchup is served on the plate, but placed there with great care. The Japanese couple next to us had their sauce in the shaped of animated musical notes, while ours came in the shape of blood-red beating hearts – very fitting since this was our first date and outing on our own in many weeks! On the table are salt, pepper, chili spice, and garlic salt, the last of which I *forgot* to use. Oh well, a great excuse to return. And SOON.

Shirts Sold at Café Roo's

Shirts Sold at Café Roo’s

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, sorry cash onlyCaptain Kangaroo’s rates 4.5 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor, where it is also ranked the #1 restaurant in all of Nago (out of something like 348 establishments). Given some of the styles and qualities of foods that can be found in this corner of the Far East in a large city, this standing is quite an accomplishment. I have been hearing the hype about this place for over a year now, and generally don’t give into such popularity contests: seldom does anything live up to such impossibly high expectations. Hamburger Island Café Captain Kangaroo’s does, on all accounts. And all our deliciousness for 2,600 yen, or about $23.50.

Jody mocks my last uneaten bit in silent contempt.....

Jody mocks my last uneaten bit in silent contempt…..

Oh, and about that shame of not finishing my burger? In my defense, I did have a large portion of chocolate ice cream for lunch.

At least I have my priorities in the right order….

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, a plate of burger heavan

Ambiance:  Eclectically furnished and casual burger joint of the highest caliber. Furniture groupings provide comfy and casual seating for couples and large groups of up to eight.

Service:  A small establishment which prides itself on quality and perfection. Food is all cooked fresh order, and the joint can be crowded during lunch and in the afternoons. While the wait to get a spot inside may be 20 or 30 minutes, your order is taken promptly and the food appears quicker than you might think possible. The staff is overly laid-back and friendly, and English is widely and easily spoken.

Food Quality:  Excellent without question. Ranked on Trip Advisor as the #1 restaurant in Nago.

Features:  Quaint eatery with conditioned indoor seating.  Easy-going atmosphere which is beachwear and kid-friendly.

Cuisine:  Burgers, burgers, and burgers. Plus eight more types of burgers. Plus taco rice.

Price/Value:  Excellent.

Address: 183 Umusa, Nago City

Phone: 098-054-3698

Opening Times: Every day except Holidays and Wednesdays, 11:00~20:00 (last order 19:40)

Directions: Take 58 north to Nago (or the Expressway until it ends and joins 58), then a slight left onto 449 once passing the seaside Nago baseball stadium. Captain Kangaroo, a small shop that’s easy to miss, is about 0.9 kilometers down the road on the left. Additional parking is found just before the storefront, and also to the rear of the burger joint.

Website: http://www.roo-bar.jp

What Does the Fox Say: Kyoto’s Fushimi-Inari Shrine


What does the fox say? It says it all – silently – at the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shinto Shrine, one of the most impressive visits one could make in all of Kyoto.

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14060715578_2141ddd704_bFoxes (kitsune), regarded as messengers of Inari, play important roles at Inari shrines. Like the song that went viral, there are hundreds of stone foxes scattered and hidden across the Fushimi Inari complex. Often they are depicted holding a granary key in their mouths, visual symbolism reflecting Inari as the protector of rice and cereals, a role so revered in ancient Japan that foxes are often referred to themselves as Inari.

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With endless expanses of crimson-colored wooden torii (See Trampled Torii for more on those iconic contours of the Far East) layered amongst a wooded and peaceful mountain spared from the city’s urban sprawl, the massive religious complex offers an escape to a spiritual world unto its own.

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14328992688_f96798e4a7_bJF4_029682Yes, it’s a Shinto Shrine. But this place is oh so much more. Ancient. Mysterious. Moving. Immense. Describing it as “just another shrine” would be like saying that the Vatican is just another church…. What Fushimi-Inari encompasses is an entire realm of various shrines large and small, nestled amid thousands of torii, all spread across an entire mountain just outside Kyoto proper. For me and Jody, our repeat visits to the shrine – during the day and at night – are some of our more memorable adventures in our flirtations to date anywhere in the Far East. It not only ranks as one of the most impressive sites in Kyoto, but it’s one of the most important to the Japanese people who live there. See Honeymoon’s Atomic Fireworks Saves Kyoto for more on what makes this locality so special.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) is the lead shrine of Inari. Situated at the base of Inari Mountain, the complex consists of four major religious areas along with dozens and dozens of sub-shrines and alters winding through numerous trails spanning over 2.5 mils and ascending to the mountain’s peak 725 feet above.

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14801914150_8fc1376c87_b 14766524022_1a6a317b62_bInari was initially dedicated to the gods of rice and sake in 8th century Japan. But as the role of agriculture diminished, the Inari deities were repurposed more broadly as protectors of business and commerce. Thus, the guardian spirit or god Inari became the patron of business. Since times distant merchants and manufacturers have traditionally worshipped Inari. This explains, in fact, the shear and almost uncountable number of torii located here, of which over 10,000 are said to be standing. Each has been donated and inscribed by a Japanese business or business person thankful for their prosperity and in the hopes of gaining additional favor with the gods for the future. The resulting long tunnels of torii are some of the most iconic visions in Japan; the torii.

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14056204387_14037f94ec_bThe earliest structures were built in 711 CE, but were re-located in 816 to the present-day site. However, the main shrine structures we see today were all built around the 14-15th centuries, including the main gate (楼門, rōmon, “tower gate”), and the main shrine (御本殿, go-honden). Today the shrine, one of the earliest Shinto Shrines in Japan, is the country’s most popular, most visited, and serves as headquarters for some 40,000 Inari shrines scattered throughout Japan.

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Interspersed along the shrine’s paths, small food stands serve Kitsune Udon (“Fox Udon”), a noodle soup topped with pieces of aburaage (fried tofu), a treat favored by foxes. You can also try Inari sushi, fried tofu wrapped around sweetened rice.

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The hike around the shrines long and crossing paths is impressive to each and every sense. Light plays with the torii tunnels during the day….. But it is in the late afternoon and throughout the night where it takes an eerie and more spiritually moving turn. There in shadows of the descending day, the small graveyards, miniaturized shrines and silent alters take on a mysterious air.

Leaving our own Ema

Leaving our own Ema

14041109430_846d3c1c88_b14041146147_28a3f9dc03_bThe Japanese, being a very superstitious people, hold that the Inari shrines are possessed by foxes at night. While foxes are generally seen has sacred and benign, they also are known to be somewhat mischievous – as foxes are everywhere) – especially at night. Jody and I, just to be safe and in the hopes of avoiding any accidental mammalian-based bewitching, visited together, even though the bitter cold of the night was calling Jody back to our lukewarm Machiya in Kyoto’s Gion District (read Timeless Townhouse for more on our stay at a traditional Geisha home at the turn of the last century). For the record, Jody was a foxy lady even prior to our visit.

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We recommend that, if possible, a visit to the shrine should be timed for the very late afternoon, when the crowds start to fade along with the harsh light of the day. The chance to explore the torii tunnels alone in the tranquil forests is both spiritually moving and all-things romantic. Having these sites and sights to yourselves is simply a magical experience.

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“The secret of the fox, Ancient mystery, Somewhere deep in the woods, I know you’re hiding…My guardian angel….” ~ The Fox – What Does the Fox Say?

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See my Flickr Set “Kyoto” for more photos of our visit to that iconic Japanese city.

Reference

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/spot/shritemp/fushimiinaritaisha.html

http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/en/theme/sites/shrines/temples/fushimi_inari/

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/japan/kyoto-fushimi-inari

http://www.insidekyoto.com/fushimi-inari-taisha-shrine

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/kansai/kyoto/sights/religious/fushimi-inari-taisha