Our last morning in Kyoto we had a tasty pancake breakfast at the hostel before packing up and taking the subway to our final attraction: Fushimi Inari Taisha.
While the other temples we had visited were all Buddhist, Fushimi Inari is a Shinto Shrine. The religions sometimes blend together, but personally I’ve found that Shinto shrines are often my favorite. To start, they’re free to enter (unlike the other temples, which all had a small fee), and I like the way Shinto is all about nature and connections to the natural world.
The tori (gates) are what this shrine is known for, and if you have the time and energy you can walk through them all the way up and down the mountain. Sadly we needed to catch a train, so we couldn’t do the full hike. I’ve already decided that one day I’ll go back and hike the whole thing.
Fushimi Inari was a great place to end our time in Kyoto, as it was by far my favorite temple or shrine. It doesn’t hurt that on the way out I found a delicious twist on one of my favorite Japanese desserts: Taiyaki Parfait!
After eating a banana caramel taiyaki it was time to go to Kobe, where we had made reservations for, you guessed it, a steak lunch.
I’m sooooo glad we made reservations – the line was outrageous, and many people were just being seated when we left, which meant they missed the cutoff for lunch prices. But we didn’t! The steak was delicious, and though I suspect it isn’t the highest quality of the Kobe offerings (the restaurant was called “Steak Land,” not the classiest of monikers) Annin and I both walked away thoroughly stuffed.
After another hour on two different trains we made it to Tatsuno, where Annin lives. It’s a tiny town with very little going on, but it was pretty cute. We had a lazy evening at home and watched part of The Last Samurai.
Tuesday was my last full day of vacation, and it was well spent in Himeji. First we went to a gorgeous temple on top of a mountain, where they filmed part of The Last Samurai (which is why we tried watching it. It’s a very long movie….). It was very peaceful, and offered some nice views of Himeji and the surrounding countryside.
Once we made it back down the mountain (by cable car) we took a bus to Himeji Castle. The castle was under renovation for the past four years and was only just unveiled in the spring, so it was in top form. It’s known as the White Herring, and is absolutely stunning (and massive). Again, the pictures I took don’t really do it justice.
After walking around the castle we had Okonomiyaki for dinner (a Kansai specialty that’s hard to explain. It’s basically a savory cabbage pancake, but it’s super tasty) and went home. Annin made brownies and we marveled at the fact that we’ve been friends for six years now. Time flies!
Wednesday it was time to head home. I parted ways with Annin after she promised to come visit me in Miyazaki, and made my way back to Osaka.
In Osaka I met up with Brad’s old host family, the Satos. They had invited me to their house for lunch and were absolutely the nicest people. We spent the afternoon chatting in a mix of English and Japanese, and it was lovely. I hope I get a chance to see them again while I’m in Japan.
When lunch was over Masaki (their son) helped me find the bus to the airport, and four hours later I was home.
Overall, I had a fantastic time traveling around Japan and hanging out with Annin and her friends. It was great to have a chance to explore some of the most famous places in Japan, and I’m certain I will be back to Kyoto again soon. There’s simply too much to see and do, I could spend a month there and still not see it all. It was also so very different from where I’m living, and lives up to the idea of Japan I had in my mind when I moved here. This isn’t to say Miyazaki isn’t great, or isn’t Japan, but it’s very, very different. I’m sure I’ll write more about this later, when I figure out a way to put this feeling into words.
Until then, thanks for reading, I will try my best to post my next update in a timely fashion!