This post took quite a while to actually plan, write, and post! The reason for that is … December happened, and I had a lot of catching up to do in my reading and review-writing. Plus there’s also this little thing that I mention in almost all of these posts: writing about Japan is painful. Why? Because I want to go back so badly! But enough with the dramatics. Day 7 takes us to beautiful, magical Kyoto! This city was one of the top places that I wanted to visit in the world, and I feel so blessed that I was able to actually go there and experience it with my loving parents and one of my closest friends, and that it turned out to be even more incredible than I could ever have imagined!
Our day started early! I mean crack-of-dawn early. We wanted to catch the earliest-possible bullet train, so that we could spend as much time in Kyoto as possible. I won’t go into details about the bullet train again (since I talked about it in Day 6: Part 1), but I will say that it never gets old! I love taking the bullet train. It is awesome! This train ride also took a little longer than the one to Odawara, since Kyoto is quite a bit further away. But that was completely fine; I had my friend to chat with, and I’d also brought a book or 2 just in case (you know how us bookworms are). The sights were also quite beautiful, to the point where I couldn’t believe my eyes. Since my teens I had seen Japanese landscapes rolling by on TV (in movies, and television shows, as well as in anime series), and I couldn’t believe that I was finally seeing some of these sights with my own eyes. I still tear up thinking about it.
We arrived at our AirBnB and were happy to find that it was not an apartment like we’d thought, but rather a 2 story house! We paid a really good price for the space that we got. It was very cozy, and our host left instructions everywhere. Our host even met us at the house, showed us around, and then dropped us off at one of the destinations we’d planned to visit in Kyoto: Fushimi Inari. Due to how everything is laid out, he was only able to drop us off at the outskirts of the area, and we had to walk the rest of the way (which was absolutely fine, because we wanted to see everything). We were also lucky enough to be walking toward the shrine during a celebration! That meant street food and stalls selling neat souvenirs and such. Once we got to the actual shrine buildings, and the start of the walk up the mountain, things didn’t go so well.
Before I go into why, though, I just want to take a moment to explain Fushimi Inari for those readers who have never heard of it. Fushimi Inari is the shrine for the god Inari, and it sits at the bottom of a mountain also called Inari. While all of this may sound unfamiliar to some, I think that a good number of you will recognize the famous Fushimi Inari red-orange gates (or toori):
The above image only shows a small portion of the walk up the mountain! Inari is 233 metres above sea level, and most of the path up to the peak looks like the image above! Isn’t that incredible?! This was the #1 place that I wanted to visit on this trip to Japan, and I am incredibly happy that we went. But now back to why things went badly once we got to the start of the mountain path.
Rather than using words to describe what was happening, I will again use an image. This is a picture of me trying to take a pretty photo of the red-orange gates, but failing miserably because of the crowding. Rather than the the path being empty (for at least part of the way) like in the GIF above, it was pure chaos. We were moving at a snail’s pace, while smooshed together with hundreds (if not thousands) of people making their way up the mountain. In addition, people were also being quite rude (tourists, not locals), and blocking the path of others while stopping to take pictures, or just stopping to talk and do other things. There was no way that we would make it to the top of the mountain before the shrine closed at sundown, and we only made it through a few minutes of this before we decided that we would return to Fushimi Inari early the next morning. Shrines are usually a lot quieter right after the sun rises, and right before the sun sets. If you go to visit this shrine, I recommend that you don’t go around 3PM like we did!
So, we left with heavy hearts, and hailed a cab so that we could go visit our next destination: Kiyomizu-dera! But before I talk about this next destination, I just want to address the fact that we cabbed rather than using public transport. While in Tokyo, we only used a cab to get from the airport to our AirBnB because we had flown for close to 14 hours, were exhausted, and it was dark outside. The rest of the time we used the subways and trains. Well, while planning our trip to Kyoto, the friend who accompanied us (and who was living in Japan for 6 years by that point) told us that the Kyoto public transport system is confusing, and because my parents wanted to visit so many places located all over the city in one day, she recommended that we use a cab. We would save time, and only spend a little extra money. I definitely recommend this method if your time in Kyoto is limited!
Okay, back to Kiyomizu-dera: it’s a Buddhist temple, located at the top of another mountain (or very large hill). We only cabbed to the bottom of the hill/mountain, and then walked up along the sidewalk until we reached the edge of the temple area. The climb was quite steep, but we stopped for some sakura (cherry blossom) ice cream on the way up, so I was quite happy despite the long climb! Once we reached the edge of the temple, we had to climb what seemed like hundreds of stairs before we could properly see the first building. But the climb was definitely worth it. The area is quite large, and we took some very nice photos. Once we explored everything, we sat down for a nice cup of green tea, and caught our breaths a bit.
Once we had rested a bit, we got up, and took a cab down the slope that we’d climbed, and headed off to our next stop: Nijojo (Nijo Castle)! But I think I’ve talked (written) your ears off enough, so I think that I will tell you all about the rest of our day in Part 2, because we made 3 more stops before finally heading back to our AirBnB for some much-needed sleep!
ALL PHOTOS EXCEPT THOSE OF THE TAXI AND CHERRY BLOSSOM ICE CREAM (BECAUSE I FAILED TO TAKE PICTURES OF THOSE THINGS) WERE TAKEN BY ME! THANK YOU FOR READING THIS POST ABOUT MY JAPAN AND KOREA 2017 ADVENTURES! ALSO, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND/OR SOME OF YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES IN JAPAN, ASIA, OR ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD YOU MAY HAVE TRAVELLED TO, IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!