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Toji Temple, Inari Shrine and 1001 statues - Kerrie's 50th Birthday!

Off early this morning as it was a full agenda for the day.  We also decided to stay an extra two nights in Kyoto, instead of moving on to Osaka and Hiroshima, and do these as day trips instead.  This will save us moving accommodation and trains are free for us anyway (using the JR pass).
First stop was Toji Temple and pagoda.  The 5-storey pagoda is the tallest remaining in Japan.  A lot of historic buildings seem to have fallen prey to fires.  The pagoda looked great, although it was a drizzly morning.  Adjacent to the pagoda was a couple of temples, but unfortunately, you can't take any photos inside these.  These contained one very large statue of Buddha and a couple of smaller (although still huge) ones.  Once again the artwork was intricate and enormous. Other building such as the one below (built without using nails) surrounded the Pagoda and temples. All were set amongst beautiful gardens and a pond.

Before heading back to the hotel to pay for another two nights we found a small bakery not far from it.  We go the most delicious savoury and chocolate croissants as well as almond custard buns for a very reasonable price.  It was mutually decided that this would be our breakfast place from now on and today a nice 50th Birthday breakfast for Kerrie.

Inari Shrine was next on the list.  Our bikes got us there in about half an hour to join thousands of other tourists.  The Tori gates were great even with many people around.  We decided to take the one hour hike up Mt Inari, which was lined by more gates.  Funny, that as soon as you walk for more than 10 minutes tourists halve, more than 20 minutes and you are by yourself.  Or maybe that had something to do with the fact that we got lost.  But often being lost comes with rewards.  We found a nice gem, a little shrine with no one around.  Kerrie was struggling up the stairs with her cold, but she kept on going and we enjoyed the spectacular views of the city.  Unsurprisingly we found a vending machine on-top of the mountain and I got my well-deserved coffee.  As we made our way back down we were moving amongst all the tourists who all were eager to purchase some divine luck.

 All day I was looking for those guys.

We didn't pay anything but still seemed to have luck in the lunch department. At the bottom of the Shrine was a great food market and we had an assortment of lunch, fried potato on a stick, pork on a stick, some sort of an egg/bacon/vegetable/noodle/etc. fry up, custard fish and an awesome beef stick.

With our stomachs full we decided to visit one more temple. Riding the bikes got rid of some excess food before we arrived at Senjusangendo Temple.  This temple is the longest wooden structure (over 120m) in Japan and houses 1001 statues, i.e. 1000 life-size statues lined up in rows with a gigantic Buddha in the middle (once again no photos allowed).   Each statue was unique. The whole thing was overwhelming and apparently, it took 70 sculpturers over 100 years to create the statues. The current building was constructed in 1266 after the original temple (built in 1164)  was lost in a fire and has remained unchanged for 700 years since, other than renovations. It has been used for many archery competitions where the archer shoots arrows from one end of the verandah to a target on the other end. Some competitions lasted 24 hours with the winner being the person who hit the target most times within 24 hours.

Exhausted and totally templed out we cycled back to our accommodation, had an early dinner and are looking forward to visiting Hiroshima tomorrow.

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