10 Oct 2015

Back to Japan - Day 5: The Wonderful Torii of Fushimi-Inari, Kyoto

Have been meaning to update my blog to complete my trip to Japan, but a new day-job has rather got in the way. So here, goes, back to Japan again!

It was our last day in Kyoto, and we planned to visit the Fushimi-Inari shrine in the morning and then head to Nara in the afternoon, but it didn't work out like that. We got up late instead and headed down to Fushimi-Inari in time for lunch! The entrance to the shrine was a street lined with the usual array of shops, stalls and restaurants. We passed one stall selling barbecued sparrow - didn't try it. Instead we had some ramen and tempura in one of the restaurants before heading up to the shrine. It was raining and the skies were not looking promising, but it was still a stunning place.

We wandered through the tunnels of torii and I tried to take a few photos, but there were just too many people in the way. Once we got to the end of the first major tunnel we stopped for a while and I set up my tripod.

We continued onwards and upwards and the crowds began to thin out. The shrine consists of a thousand or so torii gates that wind along paths up a hillside, with temples dotted around here and there. There were a few viewpoints from which you could see Kyoto sprawling out into the distance, the Shinkansen line snaking high above it through the middle of the city.

At the top was a large shrine with some strange red-dressed animal figures, not just the usual dogs.

As we wandered back down the hill we passed a man who was repainting the torii gates - some of them were a beautiful bright orange, others yet to be retouched were very faded. We also saw some incredibly cute kittens.

As we neared the bottom the crowds had all gone and it was far more pleasant; the rain had stopped too during our walk uphill. I found a couple of empty tunnels and set up the tripod again. One had a tiny puddle allowing reflections of the gates.

 When we got back to the entrance the sun came out briefly, bursting from behind thick clouds, shining a lovely pre-sunset light on the temples. I could only imagine how beautiful the torii tunnels looking with the low sunlight peaking through. A rainbow came for a few minutes. We walked back to the station, past a rather unusual building, and then took the train back towards home.

On the way home we decided to stop at a sake bar, underneath a hostel (the Jam Hostel), and made a selection of sakes to try - all a bit different and all delicious.

I tweeted a couple of photos and a very helpful person (@IncNaturalist) responded by recommending that we tried shabu shabu while we were in Kyoto. I hadn't heard of it before, so looked it up online (fortunately the sake bar had free wifi), found a recommendation for a restaurant and we headed there. We were not disappointed!

The place we found was Agotsuyu Shabu Shabu Yamafuku. We were led upstairs to a room where we sat on the floor on tatami mats (there was room for your legs under the table) and the delightful host talked us through the whole process. We ordered shabu shabu accompanied by some kyushu rokku.

Soon the man brought the first stage in the procedure: the flying fish. It was in a large bowl of clear broth that he placed on a burner in the middle of the table. It didn't look particularly appetising at this point. The man then plucked the fish out with large chopsticks and put it aside on a plate. "His work is done," he announced (this has to be one of the highlights of our trip to Japan - his work is done!). He then poured in some soy milk; again the dish wasn't looking promising. He then demonstrated how to eat shabu shabu - putting some thin pork in to the simmering broth, and the placing some cabbage leaves on top, then fishing it out and eating it altogether, dipped in some soy. The pièce de résistance was the addition of yuzukushu, a citrusy spicy paste, to the dipping sauce - absolutely made the dish! We worked our way through the slices of pork and finished off by adding fresh soba noodles to the broth. The whole thing was fantastic, tasty and fun; the waiter (who was also the owner) just made it a really great experience!

We called it a night after that, picking up a little sake for a nightcap back at the hotel; the end of a great few days in Kyoto - a fantastic city full of incredible food and culture.


  1. Great post, Sophie! There are some images here that bring back wonderful memories for me. I am delighted that I played a small part in your experience of shabu shabu. We had some extraordinary food (and sake) experiences in Japan and sitting on the floor eating shabu shabu was among the best. I didn't try the pork, though as I always opted for beef. I'm sure the pork was amazing! I love all your photographs!

    1. Thanks! I was just so glad that you tweeted about the shabu shabu, because otherwise I would have missed out. Just love everything about Japan!