Last day in Kyoto I got up and headed to the roof of my hostel to enjoy a coffee and catch up on some work. (Still a full time teacher you know! Those lessons aren’t going to plan themselves lol.)
Once finished I headed to the Nishiki Market. A covered market that specializes in seafood. Specifically a baby octopus that’s head is filled with a quail egg. I hate eggs so I passed on that treat. I did get a raspberry smoothie, some fish tempura and seared scallops though. Another attraction in this market is the ceiling, colorful stained glass. The market was good for a hazy day in Kyoto.
Full from market food I then made my way to one of the most famous landmarks in all of Kyoto and maybe even all of Japan. Fushimi Inari Taisha.
You’ve seen photos I am sure. The hundreds of bright orange shrine gates that go on seemingly forever. Now, unlike most places I go when I travel, I had done next to no research on Fushimi Inari Taisha. I just knew how to get there and that it would be crowded.
Crowded it was. This was the most people I had seen in one place since to Asakusa Temple in Tokyo. Walking up it looks like many temples in Kyoto. A large gate then a squared shrine area. Off to the side of this shrine area are the famous colorful orange gates. On each gate is the name of a sponsor to that particular temple.
That’s right, in this beautiful place you’re walking past gates that say things like “Brought to you by Toyota” or “Special thanks to Sony.” But it is in Japanese calligraphy so it looks gorgeous.
I began walking along the trail. The first part of the trail is comprised of smaller gates that are VERY close together. Combined that with tons of people you have the perfect recipe for a panic attack. Seriously I felt really claustrophobic in this first area. To top it off the gates are made of wood so I kept thinking “if there is a fire we are all literally going to die.” I am nothing but rational, I know.
After a little bit the gates get bigger with a little more space between each one so it is less suffocating. There are still a lot of people though.
Now remember I did NO research on this place so imagine my surprise when I found out that this area is actually a circular hiking trail. With the entire trail covered in bright orange gates!! The map is very deceiving. It makes it look like a quick hour walk. Nope. You need three hours at least. An hour and 45 to go up and an hour and 15 to come down. That’s if you make no stops and move at a fast-ish pace.
I probably took closer to four hour to complete the whole thing, but I was constantly on the hunt for someone to take my picture so it impeded my progress a bit. That, and there were long stretches of steep stairs so I definitely needed some time to catch my breath because I am out of shapeeeeee. Luckily there are lots of little shrines and tea houses along the way for you to rest.
As you climb the gates do thin out a bit, but not by much. The people also thin out. But the people thin out by a lot. Many people make it about a 1/4th of the way then turn around. Even more people make it half way to the top then turn around.
I was going to be in the “half-way then turn around” group. But I had been going the same pace with this family, and there was this Dad who had been carrying up his child the. entire. way.
I don’t know why. This was not a toddler. This kid was probably around 8 or 9. The kid could also walk. I had seen the kid walking for most of the beginning of the hike. But his dad picked him up about a 1/3 of the way up the mountain.
So I promised myself that I was going to go as far as this dad carried his child. Being fully confident the family would turn around at the half way point or–at the very least–he would put the child down.
This dude carried his child up. the. entire. mountain. Talk about a champ. So I walked up the entire mountain also. The shrine at the top isn’t anything to write home about, its like other ones I had passed on the way up, but there’s a certain communion you feel with the others who are up there too. The dad and his child. The two older Chinese tourists. Some dude in a three piece suit (I don’t know how he hadn’t died of sweating). The German (Swiss?) mom and her teenage daughter. There’s a sense of accomplishment and togetherness, even if no words are spoken.
Or…maybe I was just lonely from traveling alone and projected my feelings onto these people. WHO CARES lol. It was real to me.
I headed back down the mountain. And as with anything in life, it’s easier to get down than it is to get up, so I made it down in a lot less time. The path is a circle so I got to see everything and while the gates were thinner, I enjoyed going down the mountain more. It was definitely the less crowded way. The shrines on the going down side are also more unique compared to the ones on the way up.
I got back down from my hike and looked into going to the hostel. I could have taken the bus…but after my three hour hike…I decided to walk another 4 km (2.5 miles) back to my hostel. It was a nice day, I was feeling fit (LOL) and I wanted to take in the city by foot. It was pleasant walk through suburban Kyoto. At the hostel I was super hungry and decided to cheat on Japanese food for the night. I headed to an Indian restaurant in Karasuma called Kerela. It was so good. I am a huge Indian food fan and usually in every major city you can find a quiet, delicious and reasonably priced Indian place. Kerela checked all these boxes.
By the end of the meal I was tired. And wanted to head back to the hostel. I was texting my boyfriend (who was still back in Korea) and he basically was like “No! It’s only 7pm! You still have to go do something!!! Don’t be lame!!!!”
I figured he was right, going back to the hostel at 7pm on my last night was lame, so I got myself together and headed to Kyoto Tower. Kind of an oddity in the Kyoto skyline, sticking out as a super tall modern building, against mostly older style lower built buildings, Kyoto Tower is a real presence.
Not as sprawling as Tokyo, the Tower still shows a great view of Kyoto at night. The tower is only made better by interactive touch screen maps (in English!) They let you see the view from different times of day and point out important buildings.
Funny coincidence. I was standing in line for my ticket at Kyoto Tower when I hear “Laura Teacher?” God literally I can not tell you how fast my stomach dropped. I turn around and who do I see but THREE of my high school students standing in line behind me. I know.
Luckily it was three students who always tried their best to interact with me and I knew fairly well. So I just smiled, waved, bought them sodas at the tower cafe and went on my way. Nice boys but I’m on vacation for a reason and it wasn’t to hang out with them lol.
I stayed at Kyoto Tower for a long time. There are three levels of observation. Then headed back to my hostel, to pack and get ready to leave the Land of the Rising Sun (Japan) and go back to the Land of the Morning Calm (Korea).