Fushimi Inari Taisha is a mystical Shinto shrine that starts at the bottom of a mountain in Kyoto. Japanese businesses have donated thousands of these vermillion-colored torii gates — in honor of Inari, the patron spirit of rice, agriculture and industry — that line the paths up the mountain.
The shrine is open 24 hours, so Lou and I decided to go at night, when there’s no crowds and lots of croaking frogs. We took advantage of so few people, plus the pocket-sized mbira I bought earlier that day and the slide whistle he bought, and recorded a little song and filmed this pixelation animation:
(I edited the audio and Lou made the video.)
And here’s an alternate version of the mbira/whistle combo jam I layered, playing around with Audacity effects:
Read on about our rhinoceros beetle encounter!
The paths up the mountain got increasingly spooky as we ascended. More webs, bigger spiders between every gate post, flickering lights, sinister-sounding frogs and cicadas, broken concrete.
I screamed and ran when I saw a rhinoceros beetle on the path — definitely the biggest insect I’ve ever seen in the wild, almost the size of my fist.
A little while later, we spotted two guys just off the trail, digging around some trees. Since they had a dog, I figured they were foraging for mushrooms.
“Nani suru?” I called out. What are you doing?
One guy came over to us, said a bunch of Japanese that I didn’t understand, and then held up a small terrarium full of rhinoceros beetles. Then he held up a plastic shopping bag, also full of beetles. Forty, he guessed. Just solid beetles helplessly scuttling over each other. As he was showing us, one climbed out and onto his arm. I screamed again, but he just laughed.
He said his kid and his friends like to collect them as pets, but we found out later rhino beetles can sell for ¥1,000 each (about $13) and are commonly poached.
Soon after we left him, we saw an unidentifiable medium-sized mammal walking the path, so we started back down.