We started very early because the deadline for returning our Airbnb keys was 10:00 AM by Kyoto station, and we wanted to go to the Fushimi Inari shrine first thing in the morning
If you want to skip straight to the photos here’s my gallery for Day 5!
Since the subway ride from Kyoto to the Fushimi Inari shine was faster, we took the subway there, and put our luggage into a coin locker at the station. In retrospect we should’ve found a coin locker in a more prominent part of the station, because at the end of the day we ended up searching for quite a while to find it again. We even took photos of the surrounding area to remind us, but it took a long time.
With our luggage locked away, we took the subway down to the Fushimi Inari shrine. I had told Mark and Heather that we were going to be climbing a lot of stairs, but perhaps I should’ve really emphasized that going to the top of the Fushimi Inari shrine is a HIKE. Mark ended up taking his incredibly heavy backpack with him instead of leaving it in the coin locker, and if I had been clearer he would’ve known this was a terrible idea.
When we got to the shrine, the first thing I noticed were the cicadas! Before the trip, I knew that I’d hear them since it was the Summer time and that they would be loud. I didn’t realize quite how loud they would be! I’m used to hearing the stock audio sound from Neon Genesis Evangelion of a single cicada, but this was a absolute cacophony of cicadas that rang in my ears. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard such a raucous sound from bugs, birds or any wildlife before.
The Fushimi Inari shrine is known for its thousands of orange tori gates of varying sizes. The largest ones bear the names of major corporations, and smaller ones for individuals. Walking through the halls of torii gates is surreal and awe inspiring at the same time. It’s a very popular image to use in films set in Japan because there’s simply nothing else like it.
Last time I went to Japan I went here with my friend Anna, so I feel like I had covered a lot of the bases for photos you take here. This time around I tried to get some unique photos and skipping the most “obvious” frames. Heather’s son JL also decided around this time that he really wanted to take photos using one of the disposable cameras I purchased for the group.
Mark got incredibly fatigued from carrying his heavy backpack when we were only about half way up the hike, so JL took it up part way and we also took a rest about 2/3 of the way up. While we took a break I was worried Mark might get sick or faint. With the help of his portable fan from Tokyu Hands, a lot of water and some breaks we all made it to the top! It’s not uncommon to see elderly people taking the climb all the way to the top using one or two canes, which is incredibly inspiring.
The way down was significantly easier, but I was still mindful not to land too hard on my ankles. Last time I went to Japan I hurt my ankle coming down on it too hard during the 2nd day of hiking at Yakushima. This meant that I had a bad ankle for the entire Fushimi Inari hike, which was a bit of a struggle.
At the bottom I was delighted to see a stray cat! We had seen another one earlier, and I knew there were probably several more running around. Seeing a cat running around never fails to brighten up my day. I wondered to myself if the cats I saw during my previous trip were still walking around the shrine.
Somehow we managed to finish the entire hike, and get back to the office of the Airbnb manager just in time to drop off our keys. In fact, the office was closed when we arrived, but after a short wait, the office worker showed up to take the keys.
We took a break at the top of Kyoto station before heading down to Nara for the deer park!
The last time I went to Nara the deer were pretty much localized at the temple, but this time around they were on the sidewalks on the way there. I eagerly purchased some crackers to feed the deer. I told everyone that the strategy is to just keep moving because the deer know the instant that you’re holding crackers for them. (They’re polite enough to not attack the little old ladies who sell the crackers) Then once you’re all out just put up your hands and they’ll know that you’re out.
Heather tried to fool the deer by putting her hands up before she was out of crackers, but they weren’t falling for her tricks.
Understandably it was more intimidating for JL seeing as he didn’t have the height advantage the other adults did, but he did a good job even if it meant just dropping crackers on the ground.
Seriously, there were A LOT of deer. I think far more than the amount I saw last time I was there.
We then walked our way to Todai-ji, the temple which is the largest wooden structure in the entire world! Last time I was at Nara it was closed, so this was my opportunity to see it.
As big as it is, it’s still hard to get a sense of the scale of the building from photos. It’s HUGE. Inside is a massive bronze Buddha, a gold Buddha and other statues.
The dust that had fallen on the wood statues had an interesting effect of making them look even more three-dimensional than they already were.
On the way out I saw a guy that I called “The deer whisperer” because he had brought his own snacks to feed the deer, and was super chill the way he went about feeding them.
When we got there we went back to the area in the station with several ramen places and settled on one that in my extremely scientific decision making process deemed to be the one that looked best. Truthfully I was just looking for the best photos, and something that we hadn’t eaten yet on our trip.
Our bellies full of ramen and beer, we took the shinkansen back to Shibuya. We also got some beer while on the train to help the ride go faster.
We got back to our apartment in Shibuya and pretty much collapsed from another day packed with sightseeing. Actually, this was the night Mark and I went to a small bar close by to get a few drinks. I was really happy when I saw that they had my favorite shochu which is Torikai! It’s an incredibly smooth rice shochu that when I was in New York cost $40-50 per bottle. I’ve seen it at Marukai in LA, but for $70/bottle!!!
The day after was another chill day I put into our schedule so we could decompress from all the travel to Kyoto etc. On to Day 6!