Kyoto, surely not another shrine

Not our best planned day and it rather showed. Gave the girls a very long leisurely morning in bed for a battery recharge, Mem and I scouted for breakfast stuff, an entertaining supermarket trip, and brought it up to the two princesses. Thought we would just wing it for the day’s plans (always a wise choice in a city you don’t know whose language you can’t read or speak) and I had thought I might like a quick look at Fushimi Inari shrine, supposed to have a thousand torii gates, interesting. Five minutes south on the Nara local line, out the station gate and across the street, should take a minute. As we explored into it, it gradually dawned on me that if you make a ten foot torii with telephone pole sized timbers, a thousand of them lined up is going to run quite a long distance, and run it did, up the side of a steep mountain and in a loop over the summit. The painted guide boards all looked reassuring – 15 minutes, 32 minutes, etc – but it became quite a punishingly hard climb through an endless time tunnel of orange. What was I thinking? The girls are pretty battle-hardened by now, and trotted with us as we went for one more station after another, sustained by the promise of ice cream and occasional appearances by feral cats who live all over the mountain. They are scrappy creatures but semi-friendly – one hungry young one was persuaded to eat a blob of Cal’s ice cream which seemed to make his/her day.

By the time we were done the only sane thing was to board the cute green train and get our crack hiking team back to their room for a break and yet another late lunch. Dinner? Let’s not talk about dinner, we decided to let the girls choose an Italian place for more familiar options. We were the only ones there. I know Kyoto is a brilliant place for food, but it’s not a brilliant place for kid options – in fact I think as a city it could be magical for anyone over 20, but is a bit austere or refined for young adventurers.

Tomorrow we’re booked for a two-shinkansen run to Hiroshima, still debating whether the horrors depicted in the memorials will inform or traumatise the girls. Ordinarily I would have confidence in our ability to put things in context and make the emotions meaningful, but these two feel a long way from home at the moment and the time may not be right to explain why one group of people would choose to obliterate another. Miyajima will be fun as long as I conceal the fact that Itsukushima and its famous torii are yes, another shrine. It’s become a bit of a loaded word.

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