On Thursday morning, we were scheduled to take a full day bus tour around Kyoto, but due to some miscommunication between our travel agent and the local bus company, it had to be postponed until Friday. (Also, for those of you wondering, our sick Glee Club member had returned to health by this time. Thanks for your concern.)
Instead, I went with a group of guys to the Fushimi-Inari Shrine, which is known for its thousands of red gates along the path to the top of the mountain. We took the subway down to the shrine, and got a quick lunch, because it was later in the afternoon. I had a chicken, egg, and rice dish, which was tasty as one might expect. One of the guys got a grilled sparrow, which was rather tiny. It even had its head still attached!
There were a lot of tourists in the area, as well as numerous food cart vendors. I made a note to stop and get some dessert after we returned, but first we had to hike! It was crowded at the beginning, but as the trail steepened, we had more space to move around. There were also little rest areas with shops and food as we moved up, and I noted with some amusement that the food and drinks got more expensive the higher up we were.
Next to the path, a stream would occasionally appear, and at one of the shrines midway up the mountain, a fountain in the shape of a dragon head spilled into a hand basin. Most of these shrines had spaces to put candles and fox statues on each side of the entrance to the shrine. Evidently, the fox is the spirit animal of the Fushimi-Inari shrine. Most of the path was laid in stone steps, surprisingly slippery from all the people who tread on them before us.
The shrine at the top of the mountain was a bit of a labyrinth, with many tight, winding corridors to the central shrine. We all took a rest on the main staircase before descending. The trail was a big loop, which made it hard to gauge distances, but the trip down the mountain felt much shorter than the walk up. When we got to the bottom, I stopped in a gift shop and picked up a few things for family and friends, and also picked up a matcha mochi with a fresh strawberry. I had spent a good amount at this tourist trap, but I was happy with what I got in return.
I was really tired by the time I got back to the hotel, so I took a nap before dinner. Dinner was at a restaurant called Karako. They have a combination special of pork ramen, fried chicken, and rice for 880 yen, a truly outrageous amount of food for a reasonable amount of money. It was a nice restaurant, but also a nice moment of conversation with some of the guys in the Glee Club I know well, and some whom I haven’t really gotten to know.