Jetlag had us awake early again, so in the morning we headed to the Rokkaku-dō Temple just two subway stops up the line. We have bought tap-and-go cards to get around on local transport. Outside of Tokyo very few of the local subway or bus networks are owned by Japan Rail (JR) so the tourist rail passes do not work. The tap-and-go cards (called IC cards in Japan) are interoperable across most all local networks regardless of the city, so our cards will also work in Osaka, Hiroshima, Tokyo and other cities.
The Rokkaku-dō Temple is a hexagonal Buddhist temple (Rokkaku literally translates as "six sides") and considered the birthplace of the art of ikebana flower arranging. It is a tiny space, tucked in behind concrete office buildings and the ubiquitous Starbucks outlet. Two delightful swans swim in the pond behind the temple. Chanel was setting up a beauty event for their Matsuri product range as we wandered around. The messenger mascot for this temple is a sparrow-like bird and Chanel had a row of very cute birds set up along a shelf on the temple.
"Do you think they would miss just one?" asked The Navigatrix.
The Navigator wondered about a house of prayer being used as a den for thieves. However it did not seem to bother the crowd of pilgrims who bustled into the space, with their walking canes, white shirts and bandannas.
Later we met up with The Navbour and travelled to the south of the city to the Fushimi district. Apart from the famous temple on Mt Inari, the Fushimi district is also known for sake production. The area is fed by clean water from nearby Lake Biwa and hundreds of wells are scattered throughout the suburb. Fushimi is near the confluence of three rivers, the Uji, Katsura and Kamo and so became an important port for the Kyoto area. A series of canals were built to help move goods around Japan.
We rode the Jikkokubune Canal Cruise on a flat bottomed boat much like those of ancient times, except it had a Yamaha 100hp engine on the back. The staff were very careful to make sure everyone was seated in a way to keep the boat balanced. A spirit level at the front helped them check.
The three of us were the only Westerners amongst the 15 passengers and the commentary was all in Japanese but that did not matter. We spent a very relaxing hour on the canals to the huge lock gates on the River Uji. These gates now primarily operate as flood control but even after the typhoon in early September there is barely any water running in the Uji River. The Navbour commented that none of the apartments took advantage of the beautiful views of the canal.
Next we visited the Gekkiekan sake museum, which is right next to the canal boat dock. Gekkiekan is one of Fushimi's most famous breweries as well as one of the oldest having been founded in 1637. One the way in The Navbour topped up his water bottle with the crystal clear water spilling out from the well. "Excellent," he said. "Now let's try the sake!"
The excellent displays of the museum explained the process of making sake. The 10 steps (ignoring rice milling and bottling) can be completed within six weeks but the brewers had to be careful. They could not eat any fermented food because the bacteria would come out on their sweat and spoil the product. There were also displays of tools, stamps and even marketing material which were fascinating.
But you're all interested in how the sake tasted, yes? At the end of the tour visitors are presented with three samples - one sweet, one dry and a plum wine "popular with the ladies". The plum wine was indeed popular with The Navigatrix, whilst The Navigator preferred the dry sake. All visitors also receive a free 180ml bottle of sake, very cleverly packaged with its own cup. This is well worth the JPY400 price of admission as the same bottle is sold in the shop for JPY650, albeit in a wooden box. We have not tasted our gift yet - we are waiting to share it with friends and family when we get home.
In the late afternoon we headed to the Fushimi Inari Temple, also known as the Red Temple for its 1000 vermillion tori that line the path to the top of Mt Inari. This is the third time we have visited but the first for The Navbour. We fought through the crowds at the bottom and the first level. Unsurprisingly, the crowds thinned as the climb got higher - in some places the path is quite steep.
There is lots of evidence of the typhoon here. Entire tree trunks are snapped, some of the ponds are obscured by fallen trees and even some of the tori have been damaged and even removed. We continued our climb up Mt Inari and watched a magical sun set.
We returned to Kyoto Station for dinner. The station is a strikingly modern building constructed when Kyoto was only just adopting high rise structures. Even with its curves and angles it sits well with the temples and gardens and reflects the balance between the modern and the ancient city. There are lots of quiet spaces to escape to, as well as a panoramic skywalk ten storeys up in the air.
Thanks to reconnaissance by The Navbour earlier in the week, we found a whole food court on the tenth floor, full of stalls selling food from the ticket-based vending machines we saw last night (this time with instructions in English!). Ramen noodles and fried chicken topped off a fantastic day.