The Viking Orion’s third port was Osaka, Japan’s third largest city (after Tokyo and Yokohama) with 2.7 million people.  But the greater Osaka area has nineteen million inhabitants.  Osaka, like Tokyo, is very densely populated.  Elevated highways provide efficient transit in and out of the city-center, while providing good views of the high-rise apartment buildings and businesses. 

We chose to participate in a full-day excursion to the nearby city of Kyoto.  Kyoto was the historic capital of Japan for eleven centuries, until 1869, when the capital was moved to Tokyo.  It was spared from destruction during World War II.  Thus, there are many historic temples in and around Kyoto.  Our day-trip allowed us to visit two large historic temple complexes, the oldest complex (dating from 711) are shrines reflecting the Japanese Shinto religion, as well as the Zen Buddhist temple complex founded in 1339.  Both complexes are designated as UNESCO historic sites.

The Shinto religion is considered Japan’s indigenous religion, animistic and polytheistic.  Shinto revolves around supernatural entities called the Kami.  The Kami are believed to inhabit all things, including forces of nature and prominent landscape locations.  The fox is recognized as a sacred animal, believed to carry human messages (prayers) to the Kami.  Personally, Shinto reminds me of Hinduism.  Both religions see the presence of gods in all living things.  Shinto also recognizes the divinity of certain locations, such as temple sites.  There is no human authority recognized in Shintoism.  So beliefs and practices vary widely.