My second day in Shizuoka was a lot shorter than my first day, so I actually ended up with a decent amount of daylight left over. I got to Kyoto about an hour before sunset and I was seconds away from getting on a train to go back home when I noticed a sign for Fushimi Inari, the famous 10,000 Tori gates.
I said to myself “why not” and hopped on that train instead. I had so many things to see in Kyoto, I had to take every opportunity I could get. For those of you that are trying to see both Nara and the Fushimi Inari, they are part of the same train line so you can actually see Fushimi Inari early in the morning and still have plenty of time in Nara.
Walking into this temple complex was my first real experience in Kyoto. The night before I got in so late and I walked through the far more modern part of the city. Of course, it took my mind awhile to process the beauty that stood before me. I saw beautiful bright red tori gates, colorful temples and gorgeous statues in every direction. The sound of bells clanged in the background and the smell of street food lingered in the distance. The air began getting colder and the light began getting darker. This was a beautiful and mysterious scene for me. I began to walk through the famous 10,000 torii gates through the mobs of tourists trying to get the perfect picture. I was able to use what little Japanese I knew to get a picture of my own, as well as offer a picture of two friends wearing Kimonos. The amount of kimonos here is really a bit silly. If you spend any time in Kyoto at all, you are bound to notice the numerous “Kimono rental” places spread throughout the city. I always laugh just a little bit whenever I see them because it is a pretty silly concept.
Eventually, we came to a break in the gates. While most of the tourists made the mistake of continuing along the path of tori gates, I headed uphill here. I had read that because most tourists are focused on following the red gates, they miss the beautiful bamboo forest hike located only a few steps from the trail. I walk through this old bamboo forest and only encountered about one or two other people. The stalks of the bamboo here were thick, but they were spaced far apart so you could easily see through the forest.
My theory is that the bamboo “forests” I’m used to seeing in the U.S are only about 30 years old. People plant bamboo in their back yard and then it ends up taking over and spreading. In Japan, the bamboo forests are far older and more natural, so they are able to grow these huge thick stems. They also probably have a much larger root structure, which keeps other plants from getting to close. Either way, it was really cool to see this forest and it was so peaceful.
As the sun was going down, I walked through a few more of the tori gates and then eventually came to an opening where there was a pretty good sized street market going on. I was starting to get pretty hungry, and knowing that a sit-down dinner wasn’t really a possibility, I started searching for some street food. After seeing a few kiosks selling mostly fish products, I was afraid I wouldn’t find much to eat here but soon my prayers were answered. There was an awesome man throwing big blocks of tofu on the grill! I had to order one of these and I loaded it up with soy sauce, wasabi and Nori. It was delicious!
After eating, I took another lap around the temple complex and decided to call it a night. The sun sets so soon here and once its dark there’s really not a whole lot I’m dying to do. Besides, getting up at 5:00am was much more fun for me!
The next morning I would be heading to Arashiyama, my favorite part of Kyoto. There was so much I was looking forward to seeing. Stay tuned for the next adventure!