Today was a day we’ve been waiting for. Today we visited the Bamboo forest in Arasiyama and the Arasiyama Monkey Park (Iwatayama).
Lee, who has dubbed our holiday ‘The Great Monkey Marathon’ loves animals but monkeys and apes in fact all simians are his favourite.
We set off from Kyoto station to the Saga Arashiyama station via the JR line . Once we hopped off the train there were signs everywhere so even we didn’t get lost, and soon enough the towers of bamboo were in front of us.
The bamboo forest was fantastic. Towering stalks that filled the area with the smell of wood and greenery. When the wind blew we could hear the wood gently knocking all around us…that and Lee singing ‘The old bamboo’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which we realised we only knew one line too. It was fantastic. The tourists around did detract from the peace and calm but we went quite early and avoided huge crowds. It was free to enter, which helped our puny budget.
Then it was over the magnificent river to the monkey forest. On the walk to the forest we had to pause and take in the sights. This place really is stunning. Many Japanese people seem to come to visit Kyoto to experience the traditions and a lot of them wear the traditional Kimonos. It’s great to see them dressed up everywhere. These three girls asked us if we wanted to take a pictures of them and we jumped at the chance. They also wanted pics of us with them but for the life of me I have no idea why. I’ve talked to people who live in Korea who worry about visiting Japan because it could be ever so slightly similar but I can’t explain how different these two countries are. If you are in two minds, ignore the doubt and come now! Especially to Kyoto.
All this excitement was had even before we scaled monkey mountain , which is a little steep to start with but not a very long walk at all. I think older people would be ok if they did it slowly and wore trainers… if Lee and I can do it, anyone can.
Our first glimpse of a monkey was when it was on the path up ahead. It was so close. We sat for far too long, just excited to be near them. When we actually made it to the top viewing area we were surrounded by these lovely cute creatures. In the feeding room we bought some apples and peanuts for 100 yen (about 50p) and expected the money’s to grab and attack for the food but they were patient and kind. Just touching their soft little hands to feed them was thrilling. After about an hour or more we forced ourselves down the mountain both agreeing it was one of the best things we’d ever done. Lee didn’t steal a monkey but I can see he was tempted.
We only had the two sights we really wanted to see, which left us lots of time to wander and discover. We headed back into Kyoto city and stumbled upon a restaurant just outside the Kawaramachi station. It was called ‘Mr Young Men’ and their cook filled our bellies with ramen and Takoyaki (octopus ball covered in egg). Before coming to Japan Lee swore he hated Japanese food. I tried many times to convince him he just needed to try it. Luckily he dipped his toe into the Japanese food bonanza and now I think I’ll never get him back out of the pool of Takoyaki and Teriyaki.
Once we had rolled ourselves out of there we found ourselves on Pontocho alley. Famous for Geishas and its old history rooted in the nightlife. It was just after dusk and although in the back of my mind I was hoping to spot a Geisha on the backstreets I knew that the chances on a Wednesday were slim…but just up ahead we saw two beautiful ladies who stood out from all the lovely Japanese tourists wearing their kimonos. In front of us was two elegant Maiko or apprentice Geisha’s. I could have taken a photo but it was such a great moment that I just watched them with Lee. I have seen online how much they are hounded and I didn’t want to be one of those people. They seemed to see the camera around my neck and nodded in appreciation, but then again that could just have been in my tiny excited mind.
So that was our day. Filled with Monkeys, Bamboo and Geishas in Gion. I am not sure we could have had a more Japanese day if we tried. Tomorrow we are planning on a trip to the Fushimi Onari-taisha shrine (or the orange gates to anyone who is clueless like I was until I just looked up the name on Google)
I am shocked that I have managed to write two days in a row but this jacuzzi bath in the hotel makes it very easy to find reasons to relax and write. Let’s see how long I can keep this up…