A City That Fits Into Seventeen Syllables, Kyoto

The allies had originally planned to drop the first atomic bomb on Kyoto. Kyoto was spared by the personal intervention of Henry L. Stimson, United States Secretary of War. Stimson wished to save this cultural center in which he spent his honeymoon.

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There are over 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines in Kyoto. It is one of the best preserved cities in Japan. Along the way to the better known sites, one encounters sacred places on every street corner and every hilltop.

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Some are grand and others are tucked away where you would never imagine looking for them.

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Among the most famous temples in Japan is Kiyomizu-dera, a magnificent wooden temple, built into Otowa Mountain.

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Exiting from Kiyomizu-dera to Chion-in, Sannen-zaki and Ninen-zaki are two very well-preserved and atmospheric streets. In addition to Yasaka Shrine, you will probably encounter a priest asking for alms and a geisha (or two), as well as many groups of very well-behaved students on field trips.

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Chion-in is the main temple of the Jodo or Pure Land sect of Japanese Buddhism.

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To the left of the big bell, there is an entrance down which you will find yourself traveling into pitch black darkness, nothing to guide you but a handrail. This experience is meant to allow us to experience the womb but it also feels like what I imagine death to be. You will find, at the end of this tunnel, an huge glowing stone, which you can touch and make a wish.

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Shoren-in is one of the five Monzeki temples of the Tendai sect in Kyoto. The head priests at these temples originally belonged to the imperial family. After enjoying the peaceful and serene atmosphere of the temple grounds, you can experience a formal tea ceremony offered by teachers from the Shorenkai tea club.

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Fushimi Inari is arguably the most beloved shrine among the people of Kyoto. The shrine is nicknamed “Oinari-san.” Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Kyoto.

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Inari has been the patron of business since early Japan. Merchants and manufacturers have traditionally worshipped Inari, the god of rice. Each of the torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha is donated by a Japanese business.

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Foxes (kitsune), regarded as messengers, are often found in Inari shrines.

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There are over 1300 torii at Fushimi Inari. I think I might have photographed them all.

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