After talking with Mairead, we realize that I really only have one full day in Kyoto before I need to make my way to Osaka to catch my flight Thursday morning. Miranda will be staying for another week and a half with her family for Mairead’s graduation, but she agrees to wake up early with me for a full day of exploring in Japan’s old capital. WIth a list of places to visit from Mairead, Kyoto is our oyster for the day.
We started at Fushimi Inari Shrine, which I soon find out has been voted Japan’s most popular site for foreign tourists for several years in a row. I recognize this place from pictures my friends have posted from their visits to Japan, but I didn’t realize it would be so busy. I put in my headphones to drown out the crowds, and Miranda and I wander. While Miranda and I watch some sort of religious dancing with fans and bells, it hits me that this is really my first time travelling without my family or the tour guide from our school trip. Without someone there to translate and explain customs, I have no idea what’s going on. I feel the loss of my Grandma heavily there, surrounded by other foreigners, wishing more than anything in the world that she could’ve shown me Japan through her eyes.
As overcrowded as it was, Miranda and I are able to find some quiet moments off the most travelled paths. A trail to the summit is lined with bamboo and warnings about boars. Sidewalks lined with larger Toriis and men restoring the orange paint on them leads to a collection of shrines and a cat. After some more festival food, we make our way to Heian Shrine in another part of Kyoto. The shrine has gardens filled with cherry blossom trees, but we are a couple of weeks too early and the trees a bare. Afterwards, we started walking north and found Shoren-in Monzeki and Chion-in. The grounds are gorgeous, impressive, and ancient. After a long day of walking, we decided head to another Sento, this one with a variety of different baths to get in.