On my second day in Kyoto, I was feeling rather uninspired. There were still many places I hadn’t visited — including the infinitely Instagrammable Fushimi Inari shrine — but I was already having second thoughts about everything. I’d been to two lovely temples and they’d had all the “right” elements, all the things I’d wanted to see — temples, maples, a rock garden, a moss garden. But it all felt a little hollow.
It was my fault, really. I hadn’t done my homework — hadn’t read up on Japanese history and culture before I left the Philippines — and as a result I was having a mostly two-dimensional experience in Kyoto. At that point in my visit, I just wasn’t sure what I would gain from a trip to another shrine. More pictures? If that was all — if I was only going just for the sake of seeing it and adding it to the list of places I’d been to — it didn’t seem worth it. I wanted to be moved, to be engaged. I wanted to be surprised.
Which is how I ended up, accidentally, in Nara.
When I left my ryokan that morning, I figured I might as well go to Kyoto Station as it was a good jump-off point for wherever I eventually decided to go. And then, after dawdling over a reasonably priced buffet breakfast at Portal Cafe, I figured I might as well go ahead and see Fushimi Inari, if only because there wasn’t really anything else that particularly appealed to me. The train station right beside Fushimi Inari was only one stop away from Kyoto Station on the JR Nara Line — and I had a JR Pass, and time — so I figured I didn’t really have much to lose.
I made my way to Platform 8 and noticed — in the vague way one notices things one thinks are important but not too important — a sign that said: “For Inari, take a local train.” I got off the escalator leading down to Platform 8, saw a Rapid train waiting with its doors open, and got in.