On our last day in Kansai, we had the morning off, before Don’s class was heading to Osaka to see Tadao Ando’s Church of Light.

As a family, we spent our Sunday morning heading to Fushimi-Inari-Taisha, a mountain shrine devoted to Inari, the fox-like Shinto deity, and famous for its thousands of torii gates. (You’ve probably seen photographs of this place already).


Several of the students went the same morning we went to Shisendo, and enjoyed it, but warned that although there are stops and shrines along the way, there is nothing spectacular or unique about getting to the summit of the mountain, as opposed to anywhere else along the route.

Which was fine by us, because my trusty guidebooks estimated about 2 hours to hike to the top, which, with a toddler, translates to forever, and we didn’t have that kind of time – Don had to be back in Kyoto to meet the students by 12. So I lowered my expectations and insisted that however far we got would be perfect.

I was not, of course, factoring in a complete and utter rebellion by the toddler.

Aardvark did not want ANY part of this journey.

She was so annoyed and tantrum-y and melting down and whatever you want to call it, that here, right at the very start of this  – literally with thousands of torii gates to go, she is protesting taking even just one-photo-real-quick-come-on, that you can see from Don’s face he can’t believe I’m even trying to get them to pose.

But I asked him to work with it – after all, this moodiness is just how we are going to remember this trip, so we might as well live it up. He totally ran with it.


Don cooperated! He posed for the photos I requested. And we took lots without people in them. But Aardvark really does cuten-up our photos. It’s just not the same without her.

So eventually she and I stepped out between the torii gates and off the path and I Shinkansen-ed her (a game we made up that week in which I spin her around really fast saying, “We’re on the Shinkansen! We’re going sooooooo fast!” Doesn’t sound so impressive, but so far, it is actually a meltdown magic trick, and gets her to laugh every time. I do fear, however, that just by typing that I may have jinxed myself.)


We even made up a new game, called Torii Gate, in which – you guessed it – we pretend to be a torii gate.

I have to really be feeling comfortable to play that one, though – I’m always scared I’m going to drop her.

But by the time she was cheered up, it was time for us to head back to the train station so Don could meet his students.

And then I decided that Aardvark and I would not join them, instead she and I were going to try this whole Fushimi-Inari-Taisha thing again.

So, we bravely took a potty break (because now that I’ve confessed just how horrifying – and what a struggle – every single trip to the bathroom is, every single day, you understand that it really is an act of bravery, that is met with significant resistance and usually ends in defeat and heartache on my part – and sometimes worse things), then Aardvark and I had a snack, including a drink from this shrine-themed vending machine:

And then we went to the world’s saddest park, which Aardvark had spotted on the walk from the train station, and she played for about three minutes, and was totally fine.


A seriously sad park.

So that was apparently all it took: our wonderful, charming, adventurous Aardvark was back and ready for a Fushimi-Inari-Taisha do-over.



She even requested photos and insisted on working the selfie stick herself occasionally.




She held up this rock because, “This will help you smile, Mommy.” Apparently, holding anything over someone’s head in a photo, will make them laugh.
She is right.


Take 2 was great. We had a lot of fun, we re-upped our traffic safety amulets, and we even made it to the first shrine stage along the mountain before we too had to turn around to catch our Shinkansen ride back to Tokyo.


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