Saturday, 18 June 2011

Tackling the Tori Gates

In 2005 the famous installation artist Christo created a controversial sculpture in New York City called ‘The Gates’. It consisted of seven and a half thousand arched gateways following a thirty-seven kilometre pathway through the heart of Central Park. Like most of Christo’s works, it was perceived as being on the cutting edge of modern art, yet it was actually inspired by the Ancient Tori Gates of Kyoto. Known officially as the Fushimi Inari shrine, the original ‘Gates’ consists of tens of thousands (approx. 30,000) of traditional Shinto archways that follow a steep trail to the top of Inari Mountain. Unlike the Christo sculpture which only lasted several months, the Tori Gates of Kyoto date back to the fourteenth century and still remains one of the most significant Imperial shrines in Japan. We managed to visit this picturesque site during David and Cara’s recent whirlwind tour of the Kansai area. It was the last of our Kyoto attractions and it was very late in the day when we arrived. The souvenir shops were closing and most of the tourists were heading home, so we had the trail pretty much to ourselves. As it was heading toward dusk, we all agreed that we would walk along the trail no more than an hour and then turn back. However, as we passed through the seemingly endless tunnel of vermillion coloured archways (placed literally inches apart), I became more and more curious about how far they would actually continue. The pace began to quicken, time was running out and with my curiosity getting the better of me, I decided to make a breakaway. My cunning plan was to quickly make it to the top of the mountain then head back to meet up with other ‘slower walkers’ on my way down. The trail became steeper and the gates became increasingly spread out, but there was an added bonus with a stunning view of Kyoto becoming increasingly prominent. With a lot of huffing and puffing I proudly reached the top, only to be followed by Jules, Dave and Cara just minutes later. Jules took great pleasure in rubbing it in about my lack of faith that they would be able to make it within the hour. I ate a slice of humble pie and we all enjoyed the sunset view of Kyoto before heading back down through the spectacular Tori gates one more time.

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