After I returned from Osaka, I packed my backpack with everything necessary for my next outing. After that, I slept and tried to rest up properly for going to Kyoto. I met with my language exchange partner/ closest Japanese student, Mariko and we waited for the rest of our crew to arrive at the train station. She invited two of her friends, one of which was also bringing her foreign language partner, and we all introduced ourselves before boarding the train. It turns out that the other foreign exchange student was my friend Kayloni, who is in two of my classes! I never really spoke to her because the classes have around thirty to forty people in them, and she sat on the other side of the room. I’m glad that I got to know her better because we got along really well.
The train ride was only about fifty minutes long and somehow we managed to get five seats next to each other. Finding one seat on the weekend is a rarity, so I was in shock when we were able to find five of them! It was also funny seeing how my Japanese friends acted on the train. During orientation week, we were told to avoid eating, drinking, using our phones, or applying makeup on the train. However, Mariko immediately pulled out some fruit snacks and started passing them around to us while Mako reapplied her lipstick and Nana made a brief phone call to her boyfriend. I thought that was a funny contrast to what we were told to do and judging by the look on Kayloni’s face, she was thinking the same thing.
When we arrived to Fushimi Inari, we headed toward the shrine to begin the hike. Naturally, I walked into a pole, which left a bruise in my leg that is still purple as I type this. Maybe one of these days I’ll learn how to function as a proper adult, but for now I’ll just continue being clumsy. We passed through a variety of street food vendors before making our wayto the entrance. Mariko was really hungry and wanted t eat something before the hike, but her friends wanted eat after the hike. There was a bit of tension until I suggested that we eat a light snack before going on our way, so we all went back to the vendors and bought a delicious pork skewer and some Fanta to get some energy before our trip. After our snack, Mariko taught Kayloni and me how to pray and make a wish at a shrine so we all made our separate prayers. Afterwards Mariko told me that her wish was to get a boyfriend, which I found both hilarious and relatable. We continued our walk up the path and found our way to the start of the trail.
After that, all I remember was a blur of red gates and stairs. And stairs. And stairs. So. Many. Stairs. We went up 29 floors of stairs that day. It wasn’t cool outside so we were all getting sweaty and tired. Every few flights there was a spot where you could pull over and get something from a vending machine to keep yourself hydrated before continuing. We finally made it to what we thought was the end of the trail, until we read the sign that had a dot saying “you are here” which pointed…. to the official start of the trail! After going through the five stages of grief, we decided to head back down before one of us gets heat exhaustion. However, the walk of shame back down the trail was really relaxing. I got to chat with the girls more and we kept making puns in English and Japanese, which is my favorite sense of humor, and we also sang songs together.
After we got back to the main shrine, we decided to get o-mikuji, which are slips of paper that tell you your fortune. You shake a box, pull a stick from the box that has a number on it, then tell your number to someone working at the shrine who gives you your fortune based on what number you pulled. It was only about 300 yen, and I’ve been wanting to do that since I was in middle school because I saw characters doing it in anime, so I wanted to try it out. My fortune was dai-kichi which means “great blessing” and is the best fortune you can get! I was so happy! It said that I was going to be cured of my illnesses and that I would be in a loving romantic relationship soon. My cold went away that weekend, but I’m still waiting for the boyfriend part to come true. Mako also got “great blessing” and Kayloni got chū-kichi which means “middle blessing.” Nana recieved “sue-shō-kichi” which roughly translates to “ending small blessing” and Mariko sadly pulled “dai-kyō” AKA “great curse,” which is the worst fortune you can pull. Mariko was pretty bummed out and kept mumbling something along the lines of “kareshi ga hoshii noni…” which means “but I want a boyfriend…” so we walked her over to a place where she could tie away her fortune to get rid of it’s associated bad luck. After that, her mood seemed to brighten and we headed out of the shrine.
After we left the shrine, we decided to take a train ride to a mall that isn’t too far from Kyoto. We took photos in a photobooth, ate delicious crepes, and window shopped! It was lots of fun, and I was glad to do some “girly” activities for the first time since coming to Japan. By the end of the day, we were all completely exhausted and trudged our way back to the station where we exchanged LINE and Instagram information so we could stay in touch. We went on our separate trains and Kayloni and I headed back too our dorm together, excitingly chatting about our favorite parts of the day. Overall, it was a really cute experience and a great way to spend the day with my friends.