Japan Day 2: Kyoto
In our previous post, we ended on losing our camera. That's about of the top worst things that can happen on a trip, let alone an international trip where you want documentation of cool new places and experiences and first reactions. It was the morning we woke up in Osaka, after a long day of travel, when we realized that we had forgotten our camera on our plane. A big black pit of agony formed in my stomach. I couldn't believe it. We started retracing our steps and landed on not having it at the airport. We must have lost it on the plane!
We started thinking of how we can reach the airline and airport to see if we could locate the camera, if it were even still in Japan. Thanks to an extremely kind local at our hostel who spoke great English, we were able to communicate with the airline personnel on the phone for us and get a hold of the airline and locate our camera. We scheduled to take the train back into Osaka to grab our camera at the airport. Like I said in our previous post, the stretch from the airplane through customs is probably the hardest part of trips because you're most likely tired and you have to keep track kids and everything else until you get to the next step. Yet, we were both SO GRATEFUL we were able to find the camera and were en route to get it. Yes, this meant our short amount of time was cut even shorter because we had to take the train back to get it, but would be worth it. Plus, it was kind of nice to get on the train in the early morning and see the sight we missed the night before and get to relax for a little bit more along the way.
Martina cried literal tears of joy and gratitude for everyone who helped us along the way. This experience taught us two lessons that we carried through the rest of the trip:
1. Double check everything
2. People can be extremely kind all around the world.
Tip: We also grabbed some day train tickets at a booth in the airport for around the Osaka and Kyoto area (even going from the airport) that saved us a little bit of money, so look for money savers like those available.
We love looking at the positives in these situations and ways we enjoyed the detours of the journey. Here are few:
We made a new friend in Japan, the one who helped us at the hostel
We got to purchase cheaper tickets for the area
We got to try Japanese which we find is always slightly different in other countries, and the best parts are the different treats
4. We got to go back to the airport for this photo. lol
5. We got to enjoy the day ride scene through Osaka
Kyoto Fushimi Inari
Well, back to the trip. Instead of going back to Osaka to have their famous ramen, we decided to go straight to Kyoto train station hub (1hr 15 mins), and we knew we would have basically the afternoon on there, but we were certain to make the most out of it. So if you're feeling like a single day in a place is not enough, ultimately it is what you make of it. We try to keep a "we'll be back" mentality and a go with the flow attitude, which helps alleviate the stress and remorse in these instances. We just focused on a couple of things we wanted to do in Kyoto and made the best of it. The one thing we wanted to see in Kyoto more than anything else was Fushimi Inari with its numerous and iconic red torii gates. We weren't sure about wheelchair accessibility, but we were determined to make it happen regardless. Boy, were we in for a treat.
Because of how time poor we were, we opted to leave some excess luggage at the Kyoto train station before transferring to the Inari train stop, since we had to go back through it to get to our hotel that night. This was a super convenient option and helped us save on time. Tip: Take a picture of which one is yours and pick the right size for your belongings!
Getting to Inari was pretty easy via train, (JR Inari Station), as was most everywhere else we went. Fushimi Inari did not disappoint. Upon exiting the train stop, we started looking around to see where to go - the crowds and red torii gates off to the left were a dead giveaway. So we basically walked across the street and up a hill to the first structure of the shrine. These initial structures were beautiful and we noticed that everyone was surrounding a basin of sorts performing a cleaning ritual. The kids and I followed the directions and purified/cleaned our hands in preparation for entering the shrine. It was great that the kids were so interested in it all: asking questions about why we were washing, why were there these gates, and so many questions that I frankly didn't have answers to. So I did what any self-respecting dad would do - I gave them vague answers and then tried to change the subject. But we did find some information out throughout the visit, and thank goodness for the internet!
Once we were cleansed we went up a steep hill to the next portion of the complex. We noticed people ringing bells and bowing/praying towards some monks inside some sort of room. The bells were not the rich ringing you might imagine from chapel bells, but rather, they were more metallic, with a sound of thin metal. Off to one side, women, whom I assume were priestesses, began singing/chanting and playing some simple instruments. While we couldn't understand a thing they were saying, it was mesmerizing to listen to and fascinating to watch the meticulous way in which they performed each action; from the positioning of their fingers to their straight-backed posture, and even the way they entered and exited the stage.
With the sun getting lower we knew we needed to make it to the tori gates we had been waiting to see before night fall and cranky witch children come out to play. There was only one problem though: stairs. Despite my lack of exercise in the last few months (thanks grad school), it wasn't for me that the stairs posed a problem, but for Martina. Though, stairs don't generally cause too much of an issue as I can usually pull Martina up the stairs on her hind wheels which we have done through Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines--everywhere. However, with kids and a stroller in tow, it comes down to taking turns. So we decided I should take the kids up first and maybe see if there was a more accessible alternate route. I received some odd looks as I took the stroller up the stairs and thought to myself, "Just wait til you see what I bring up next." I had just gotten to the top and taken a quick look around for an accessible path, and couldn't find any. I decided I would just go grab Martina, but when I turned and looked down the steps, to my surprise, there was a small herd of people carrying my wife and her wheelchair up the stairs! Martina was laughing, saying encouraging things and the people seemed to be having a good time. Once they got to top there was a brief celebration, lots of thanks, and even offers to help more if necessary.
It is moments like these that really inspire me as a traveler. People of different backgrounds and nationalities, coming together in small moments to help each other out. It would have been easy for everyone to be so caught up in their touristy picture taking and rushing from place to place, but these folks stopped what they were doing to help someone in need. That act of kindness touched both of us, even tearing us up now as we think of how connected as a people we are, and how love and kindness transcends cultures and is so needed. How much better would the world be if we all just sought to help each other? These aren't necessarily life-changing moments, but they matter to those involved, and the world is better for them.
Finally, having overcome the stairs, we could really begin exploring Fushimi Inari. Walking through the woods, there were more tori gates than I had imagined. I thought maybe twenty here a dozen there, but no, this was like a tori gate snake winding throughout the forest, there were hundreds! As a tourist, it was hard to be upset at the number of tourists there, but the place was packed. Despite this, there was still a sense of peace and dare I say reverence in this place. Clearly people of faith had worked hard to build and place these shrines. Much of the tori gate path utilized stairs so again we were a bit limited in where we could explore, but had the chance to roam around quite a bit and get a pretty full experience. And of course, our children loved running up and down the steps through the pathway of tori gates. The steps were longer steps so Martina was able to maneuver them one by one going down backwards with her anti-tippers down, but we would say they are not the most wheelchair accessible path. There are hiking paths around, leading to the forests of Mount Inari, but not wheelchair accessible. You can find more information about this place here.
No closing days
Alongside the beauty of the numerous gates were a number of fox statues, which represented messengers. These foxes were all over the place, again, adding a sense of mysticism to the place.
Like all great endings to a day of exploration, we ended up getting lost around the neighborhood near the shrine. I had thought myself clever when I found a set of long shallow steps that Martina could go down unaided, but rather than putting us into the food area as my kids wanted, we ended up on a side street. This was our first feel for a Japanese neighborhood and it was close to what we expected. Lots of little houses close to each other and utilizing the little space allotted to them. Eventually, we found our way back to the shrine to catch a night market that sold tons of delicious street food. We waited in this super long line but got to try out wagyu beef, and so delicious dipped in the sauce that comes with it. Literally, Japan was foodie heaven, so we'll be covering all the good stuff we ate in another post, but as a little sample of things to come: Japanese street food = delicious!
Sites we are saving for next time:
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and monkeys - this grove looks so beautiful and peaceful, and the monkeys would be such a treat for the kiddos.
Kyoto imperial palace - Since Kyoto was Japan's former capitol, it would have been cool to take the kids to learn more about Japan's history.
Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion) - This looked like such a cool place with a GOLDEN temple!
Kiyomizu-dera Temple - A beautiful decorated and well-known Buddhist temple.
Chion-in Temple - A beautiful temple with a great garden space. If we had time, we definitely would have roamed and explored. We love a chill time and this would be it!
Let us know if you've been to Kyoto or Fushimi Inari and what were your impressions? Where do we need to visit the next time we make it to Kyoto? Leave us a comment and don't forget to subscribe. Safe adventures!
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