After such an amazing New Years Eve I didn't think we'd be able to top it, but we gave it a shot New Years day. A lot of places were closed because it was a national holiday, but we took a tour around the train station and I bought a new purse and we checked out the lucky bags for sale. On Jan 1st many stores in Japan offer Lucky Bags. They can cost as little as $5 or as much as a couple hundred and you have no idea what's inside of them until you buy them. It sounds like a bit of a rip off, but apparently the contents are worth at least double what you pay for the lucky bag. So if you buy one for $50 you're going to have at least $100 worth of nice merchandise inside. Jim and I bought one on a whim for $5 from an accessory store. It ended up being all hair accessories. I kept a couple but the rest I gave away since they didn't suit me at all. It wasn't a terrible investment though and they must be pretty popular because people were lined up to buy them.
We decided to visit Fushimi Inari shrine which is really famous for having hundreds and hundreds of torii gates. If you've ever seen the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, the scene where she is running through the red gates was shot at this place so I thought it'd be pretty neat to check it out. We had NO idea what we were getting in to.
After pouring out of our packed train we were faced with a sea of people and street vendors. Apparently every other person in Kyoto also goes to Fushimi Inari shrine on New Years day! We should've had the forethought to realize that beforehand, but it turned out okay. The street vendors had some pretty cool foods and sweets for sale. I tried some chocolate covered pumpkin seeds from Thailand (delicious!) and bought a candied strawberry. The vendor had even taken different fruits and put them together to make Mickey and Minnie characters. Some other stalls just had hard candy and one lady had gummies that were perfect replicas of different anime characters - doraemon, anpan man, pikachu, sailor moon, and stitch (from Lilo and Stitch).
We took our time walking through the torii
gates and checking out all the different shrines. Many people were lining up at different ones to give money and say prayers for the coming year. You could also buy mini torii gates to write prayers on (for a hefty sum) or burn some incense. The actual path with the torii gates was pretty long and extensive so we took the short route (which still took us around an hour) and made our way back to the train to head to Nara.
Nara is pretty famous for its deer park and I'd heard lots of good things about it so we took the 40 min train ride there and walked from the station to the park. The park was free to get in to, which was nice, and the senbei you could feed the deer with were reasonably cheap. One pack was 150, if I remember right. It was really cute watching the little kids feed the deer and seeing the baby deer prancing around. The deer are free to roam around the park wherever they want so you could see groups of them resting in one spot and others running across the field. It was pretty neat but
depressing at the same time. I think because there were so many visitors that day the deer didn't really care about getting more senbei. Most of them seemed pretty indifferent. The ones who did want it looked like the had epilepsy. They would jerk their heads all over the place and their eyes kind of had a crazy look in them. No deers attacked us but that might explain why they'd had their horns sawed off...
After a couple hours we went to buy some omiyage from a nearby store. We were a little surprised to find deer horns and pelts for sale there too. Jim's comment of "I guess some of the deer don't make it" had me in stitches.
Needless to say after taking the 3 hours worth of trains back to Mie, and getting turned around a couple of times, we were exhausted. We basically got home and curled up in bed by 10:00. It was well worth the trip though - between meeting up with friends, spending New Years in Kyoto and getting to explore a bit of Nara I'd say we had a pretty awesome time. Not sure where the next adventure will
be, but hopefully it'll be somewhere equally as awesome.
Happy New Year everyone!
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