Chapter 1:

Sakura Patterned Yukata, Cherry Blossoms, and a Girl Like Flowers

Blossoms of Serendipity

Everything looked beautiful from the plane. Green parks nestled among small buildings and historical sites all showcased how vast and ancient the city was from a distance. But what looked different from all of them was Sakura. This view could only happen if you come in spring.

I had arrived in Kyoto. I wanted to begin my trip in a large yet serene city rich in history and tranquility.

Last year, I had the opportunity to travel through Europe with the Erasmus program, and this time I wanted to visit this island country, which is like a world of its own in the Far East.

The first thing I noticed as I walked with my backpack after landing was, of course, the Japanese alphabets, which are very different from the Latin alphabet. This was something I expected, and they had also included English versions for tourists like me, but it was still interesting.

 After getting off the plane, I walked towards the metro station.

 I planned to use metro, and explore as much as I could until evening. My targets were temples and palaces. After spending a day in Kyoto, I would move on to Nagoya and then to Tokyo.

While waiting for the metro, I realized I was hungry. Since it was very early in the morning, only vending machines were operating. 

I managed to buy a sandwich with cheese and something strange inside by asking the Japanese people around me.

A short while later, the metro arrived. After a ten-minute metro ride, I got off near the Fushimi Inari Shrine. This was my first stop. Of course, I didn’t have time to explore everything in detail, but I wanted to walk along the staircase path and the side streets that I had seen in many photos.

As I walked through the narrow streets of Kyoto, the magical effect of spring was felt in every corner. Sakura trees, with their pink and white blossoms, had turned the city into a dreamlike realm. When a gentle breeze blew, sakura petals gracefully danced down to the ground, transforming the streets into a carpet of flowers.

 I started climbing up the side streets. There were few tourists and locals around. After passing through a giant straw ring, I entered the temple area.

The wooden structures of the temple showcased the intricacies of Japanese architecture, while the ponds filled with koi fish and the Zen gardens created a peaceful atmosphere.

From what I heard from the tourists around me, this giant straw ring-like gate was meant to ward off evil spirits. I admired the red and white structures and the places with numerous patterns and motifs. The enormous sakura trees, with their falling pink blossoms and the clear sky, made everything around me enchanting. There were women in yukatas and young people wandering around having fun, as well as elderly people bravely climbing up with walking sticks.

They had made a map of the vast complex. I slowly started to climb up, looking at the map. 

I finally reached the path with the red columns. As I climbed, I realized I was in the exact place I had seen in photos and videos.

Despite the slightly cold weather, the scenery I saw gave me a sense of serenity.

As I climbed up, the breeze blowing from above gently tousled my hair. I knew I didn’t have enough time to reach the top, so I decided to climb a bit more and then head back. 

A water channel flowed down to my left. When I reached a higher point, there was a breathtaking nature view. A small pond surrounded by green trees and sakura trees. It was like the temple’s own nature garden.  After resting and enjoying the view for a while, I decided to head back.

 As I walked down the path, I tried to decide from my phone where to go next and where to exit the temple.

 At that moment, I heard a faint cracking sound and a girl’s voice behind me.

“Ah!” The sound conveyed pain and surprise in every tone.

When I turned around, I saw that she was about to fall on me. Realizing that she would fall if I didn’t catch her, I instinctively reached out to slow her down. The girl fell quickly into my arms.

 As I lost my balance, I grabbed the walking rail on the path tightly with my left hand. With my quick decision, we both avoided falling at the last moment. In shock and fear, she raised her head towards me in my arms.

“Gomen'nas—” she started to say, but stopped mid-sentence as she looked at my face. She probably realized I was a foreign tourist. 

I was also very surprised when I saw her. She was a fair-skinned girl in a yukata with sakura patterns. With her natural makeup and pure appearance, she looked like a porcelain doll. Realizing the situation I was in, I composed myself and looked at her seriously.

“Are you okay?” I asked with concern, adjusting her posture.

Having overcome the initial shock, she looked at me with her voice slightly muted. There was still a look of surprise on her face.

“Yes, I think I’m fine…” She glanced at her foot. The geta she was wearing had broken.

She slowly stood up and moved to the side. She looked at me curiously.

"You okay?” she asked with curious and concerned eyes.

“Yes, I’m fine too,” I said. As she fell, her right foot had hit my left leg, leaving it dusty. I began to dust off my leg with my hands. At that moment, I realized something. I was using both of my hands. But I was holding something earlier, my phone.

“W-where’s my phone?” I said anxiously, looking around.

“Did you drop your phone?” the girl asked worriedly.

“I think so,” I said, looking down the stairs. At least the descending tourists could see it, but since there were very few people around, no one seemed to have noticed. It wasn’t below or to my left.

 At that moment, the least likely possibility came to mind. While holding the phone with my left hand, it might have fallen to the side when the girl bumped into me. I quickly turned my head in that direction, and what I saw made me feel something breaking inside me. The phone had fallen into the water channel flowing beside me.

“There... there it is,” I said, pointing with a trembling hand. My phone had fallen into the water with its screen on. As we watched, the screen went dark.

While I stared at the place where my phone had fallen, wondering what to do, the girl beside me sat down on the steps and took off the geta on her other foot. Before I could ask what she was doing, she leaped to the other side of the structure. I watched her in shock and worry.

“I’ll get it right away!” she said, bending over the water.

Not knowing what to do, I looked around. Thankfully, apart from tourists climbing up from below, no one else was coming down from above. I held my breath as I watched her.

“Please, don’t trouble yourself, you might get hurt!” I said anxiously.

“No, it’s my fault,” she said without looking at me, reaching for the phone in the water.

She quickly returned to me with the phone in her hand. She handed it back to me, and I checked if it would turn on. It didn’t.

“Are you a tourist? Do you know your way around?” she asked, turning her head curiously.

“Yes, I’m a tourist, and I can’t say I know my way around. I just got off the plane today,” I said, shaking the phone.

“What was your plan?” she asked, sounding sad.

“I was planning to visit a few more places today and then take the train to Tokyo,” I said. When I looked up from the phone at her, I saw her eyes welling up.

“H-Hey, please don’t feel like that! It’s not your fault!” I said worriedly. God, seeing her upset hurt me more than my broken phone. Her beautiful face, filled with sadness, was tearing me apart.

“It’s my fault. If I had been more careful and not in such a hurry, this wouldn’t have happened,” she said. She wasn’t entirely wrong, but it had happened, and at least she wasn’t hurt and would probably be much more careful in the future.

“It’s not a big deal, as I said. Once I take it to a repair shop, it will be back to normal. Don’t worry,” I said. I wasn’t sure if it could be fixed, but I couldn’t waste more time.

“You’re right!” she said, her eyes lighting up.

“What is it?” I asked, looking at her curiously. She quickly glanced at her watch.

“I can show you around,” she said with a sense of relief.

“What?” I looked at her in surprise.

“Yes, I know a repair shop too. After we give your phone, we can explore until evening,” she said.

Everything was happening so fast. I had a broken phone, a girl I didn’t know, and an offer to explore. I quickly tried to think things through.

“Please let me accompany you. It wouldn’t be a bother; this is my fault,” she said, looking down at the ground, avoiding my gaze.

Considering my current situation, I realized this might be the only way I could continue exploring. I had nothing to lose.

“Then, if it’s no trouble, I accept,” I said. As soon as I said it, she looked at me with a hopeful smile.

“Then let’s go. Your phone will probably be ready by the evening!” she said.

“Okay, but wait... you don’t have shoes?” I asked, looking at her feet.

“It’s not a problem. I have regular shoes in my bag,” she said, opening her bag to show me.

“What?” I said in surprise.

“These getas break easily and can make our feet hurt, so we usually bring shoes with us,” she said, putting on the shoes she took out from her bag and standing up.

“Let’s go,” she said and started to head down.

“Wait a second, we haven’t even introduced ourselves,” I said, suddenly realizing.

She quickly turned around. “I’m Mio,” she said.

“I’m Tolay.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said, smiling.

“Nice to meet you too,” I said, and began to follow her.

On my first day in Japan, I was going to explore with this stranger I had just met.


After leaving the temple, we immediately went to a nearby electronics store and dropped off my phone. From there, we hurried to catch the metro to Kiyomizu-dera.  The metro was completely full compared to the time I had ridden it in the morning. There wasn’t even enough space to lower my arm. But surprisingly, Mio’s energy was very high, which kept me going.

By noon, we had arrived at Kiyomizu-dera. Mio started to lead me to its most magnificent part. Meanwhile, I was amazed at how grand and majestic the old Japanese temples looked. I wanted to stop and look, but Mio assured me I would see everything perfectly from the place she was taking me to.

We were on top of the largest building, overlooking the most beautiful view of the old capital. As I watched the city from the wooden terrace of the temple, the white and pink canopy of sakura blossoms adorned the cityscape. The trees surrounding the temple were covered in flowers, and as a gentle breeze blew, the petals softly drifted to the ground.

"Do you like it?" Mio asked, smiling at me.

"Yes. I mean, um, it's really amazing. Just thinking about the people who once lived here feels so different," I said.

"I'm glad you like it," she said, turning her eyes back to the view.

I realized that apart from discussing the places we were visiting and our rush, I hadn't talked to Mio much. She had gone out of her way to help me, and I felt bad for not making more conversation. So, I decided to bring up a topic.

"Hey Mio, how come you speak such good English?" I asked.

"Why do you ask?" she said curiously.

My question was quite unrelated, wasn't it? I wanted to die of embarrassment, but it was too late now.

"For example, even the people I asked about the products in the vending machines couldn't answer properly," I said.

"Ah, I see. Actually, I study English teaching at Kyoto University," she said. Now everything made more sense. Even her accent was good. Mio continued, "Are you studying?"

"Yes, I'm studying aviation," I said.

"Wow, that's cool!" she said.

"Not really, it's actually quite tiring."

She laughed. As we slowly left the view and started descending again, we continued chatting about our careers and travels. The more I got to know her, the more I realized what a good person she was. Even though we had met randomly, and I had forgotten to ask what she was doing at the temple, I was beginning to really like her.

"Are you hungry?" she asked in the middle of our conversation. By then, we had reached the bottom.

"Yes, a little..." I said. It was past one, and I had only eaten a sandwich.

"Then let's go to Nishiki Market. You can try a lot of different things there," she said.

"Okay, sounds good." I had no idea where that was, but I figured anything Mio suggested would be good, so I continued to follow her.

After trying various Japanese foods at Nishiki Market, we moved on to Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion. It was breathtaking. Covered in gold leaf, this temple shone under the sunlight. The pond in front of the temple created a mesmerizing reflection of the golden structure. The colors of spring combined with the golden glow of the temple presented a dazzling sight. The freshness of spring was integrated with the nature surrounding the temple.

After that, we went to the final place Mio wanted to take me, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. The tall trunks of the bamboo trees stretched towards the sky, forming a natural tunnel. When a gentle breeze blew, the sound of the bamboos clashing together was like nature's music. The cool air of spring and the green hues of the bamboo forest took away the fatigue of the day.

The day was coming to an end for me, and after leaving the forest, we returned to the phone repair shop. I got a little angry at Mio when she tried to pay for her phone repair. But since she was very stubborn, we eventually agreed to split the cost. My phone was fixed again.

From there, we headed towards the train station. Despite telling her she didn't need to trouble herself anymore and that she must be tired in her yukata, she insisted on coming with me. To be honest, I wanted her to come. Thanks to her, my day had turned out to be very different, but in a beautiful way, much more than I had expected.

While waiting for the train, we sat side by side.

"Are you thinking of coming back?" she asked in a curious but soft voice.

"I don't know, but I would love to. I'm sure there are many more places to visit."

"Yes, there are so many more places. It's a mistake to give only one day to Kyoto."

"I'm sorry..." I said. I really regretted giving only one day.

I stood up. The train announcement was being made.

"Then I guess I'm leaving now," I said. My heart was breaking.

"O-okay..." We looked at each other for a while. Should we hug, shake hands, what should we do? We were both unsure.

Suddenly, I bowed like the Japanese do. It seemed like the most logical thing to do.

"Thank you very much for today and for everything you did," I said. Mio didn't respond. Curiously, I looked up at her. She was trying hard not to laugh, but after I looked at her, she burst into laughter.

"What are you doing? Hahaha!" she laughed, looking at me. When I looked around, I saw other people looking at me too. I quickly stood up.

"W-what could I do? Everyone does this in this country."

"Silly," she continued laughing. Even though I was a bit annoyed, I couldn't help but laugh too.

When we both calmed down, we quietly looked at each other.

"Then I'm leaving," I said, wanting to hug her but not knowing how she felt about it.

"Okay, come again," she said cheerfully.

After waving goodbye, I turned around and started walking into the station. I had reached the platform entrance gates. I wished we could have spent more time together... just a little more.


Before I could turn around, Mio had embraced me from behind. I was breathless, unsure of what to do. Her hug made me incredibly happy. As she held me, I gently turned around and hugged her back. Her soft hair brushed against my neck. 

"Come again," she said, releasing me.

"Okay, I will," I said. After our embrace, I couldn't quite figure out what I was anymore. As I passed through the platform gates, the final announcements for the train were starting. She was looking at me from behind.

"Tolay! Check your pocket when you get on the train," she said.

"What?" I exclaimed, reaching into my pocket immediately, but she angrily shouted at me:

"Don't look now, I said check when you're on the train!"

"O-okay, sorry." After waving goodbye, I boarded the train. Once I found my seat, I sat down. I looked out the window at the setting sun. I reached into my pocket. There was a piece of paper. When I unfolded it, it read:

"Thank you for today and I'm sorry for everything. I came to the temple today because it's my birthday and I made a single wish... and you were there. Thank you so much. I hope we meet again soon. If you're not angry or upset with me, I'd like to stay in touch. Until our next meeting.

Contact info: +81..."

I crumpled the paper in my hand. I felt awful. She had sacrificed her entire birthday for me, incurred expenses, and I had just saved her from falling. I was so angry... at myself...

I wanted to be with her. I wanted more time with her. She wanted that too, yet I rushed both of us all day!

Suddenly, something came to my mind. Why did I even come to Tokyo? Was it the city itself, or the places to visit? What was I doing here when I had something valuable and could feel happy?

I saved Mio's phone number. I sent her a message.

"I didn't know today was your birthday. Happy birthday. Also... I'm sorry," I wrote. Shortly after, I received a reply from Mio:

"Why are you apologizing? Today was the best birthday I've ever had."

I stood up quickly. The train was about to leave in 2 minutes. The doors were open but the warning sirens were sounding. I put my bag on my back as people around me looked at me. Yes, I didn't need to go to other cities and waste time. With something important and beautiful right here, it was enough for me.

I ran out of the train door. As I did, the doors started to close immediately behind me. Japanese security guards shouted at me.

"I'm sorry," I said, and I ran towards the platform exit.

 I took out my phone and pressed Mio's number. Even if my entire trip was ruined, even if everything went wrong, just like the sakuras that would dance for a very short time, just like the trees that revived anew, I wanted to spend my short journey as brightly and vibrantly as possible, beside her. 

Maybe we had just met, but she was the one who brought me the real spring.

Steward McOy
MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon