Stephen: On our second and final full day in Kyoto, we headed out to the outskirts of the city, to a place called Arashiyama. Kyoto was the first place on the whole trip where we had become acutely aware of the fact that we are foreigners, feeling more like sightseers than anything else, which wasn’t all that pleasant an experience. That was heighten a bit by Arashiyama, which is full of interesting sights, but also a ton of tourists.
That said, it turned out to be a great day. We kicked things off in some UNESCO World Heritage shrine garden, which was cool, but full of people, and as Grace put it, it really made us appreciate stumbling upon the deserted, albeit smaller, shrine the day before. It wasn’t the best of starts, but luckily the garden opened up onto a bamboo grove, where the ‘trees’ reach into the sky and bend inwards to meet in the middle above your head. It was pretty amazing to see.
We had heard a lot about a park where monkeys roamed free though, so we got to the other side of the bamboo grove and wandered up into the much quieter side of Arashiyama where we found an amazing view over a valley.
As we were trying to work out the best way to go, we had another interaction that summed up a lot about what being in Japan is like. A guy who had been sitting on a bench minding his own business came running up to say that he was a local, and that he wanted to tell us some things to visit. In particular, he gave us details of where the monkey park was, and how to get into it, as well as having a chat about where we were from. He knew a bit about Scotland, and Denver, which was nice. So nice, that we can almost forgive him assuming that we were from Edinburgh. I got a picture, but it’s on film, so that will have to wait. We meandered on down to find the most amazing coloured water, which seemed to me to be very close to what I imagine Thailand or something to look like.
The sun was shining, and everything was grand. I even had another encounter based on someone spotting my Leica M2. Before long, we found ourselves on the steep climb up into the monkey park. At first, I was pretty dubious about how it was going to turn out, as it seemed like a tourist trap. However, as we got to the top, we found the most amazing view.
There were also monkeys, everywhere.
The trainers or guides or guards or whatever the correct term is were there to ensure that nobody got mauled by a monkey, and they seemed pretty calm about it. If this had been in any other country, I wouldn’t have felt safe… the monkeys seemed pretty lively at times, and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine them going to to… but I have faith in the Japanese.
You could feed the monkeys if you wanted to, but I decided that was a step too far for me.
It’s not so much that I was fears of the monkeys, as much as I have a healthy respect for them… unlike some of the other visitors. I think that there is a fundamental difference between a ‘tourist’ and someone who travels, and one of them is blatantly disregarding any sort of instructions or norms when abroad. It’s one thing to make a cultural faux pas, but quite another to blatantly disregard clear signs in your own language telling you what to do or not do.
This one might not have been that clear, but there were warnings everywhere: Do not crouch down to the monkeys’ level. Do not stare at the monkeys, especially directly in the eyes. Do not stick your phone or camera in their face. And yet, behold:
Later we headed back to the centre of Kyoto and had some gyoza, which were amazing, and then visited an 8-bit style cafe bar that I had wanted to visit – being the Game Boy music afficianado that I am. There were some game themed cocktails which were cool, but the place seemed like it had probably seen better days. It must be hard to keep somewhere like that clean when you still let people smoke indoors.
With that, we walked back to the flat, on what was probably our biggest day for walking thus far. I wish I could tell you how many steps or Miles or whatever, but I didn’t pack the charging cable for my Fitbit, and since they use a stupid proprietary charging system, I can’t power the damn thing. I’ll leave you with a grossly exaggerated view of our Kyoto pad on our last night, as we drank and ate our supermarket finds.
Al: you’ll likely notice many more similar images between the three submissions in this entry, as the vantage points for the main views were much more defined than in previous parts of the journey – brace yourself for that. Since we’re about to bludgeon you with the same images three times over, I’ll avoid going over ground already covered by Stephen, and go straight into the images. As above, we started at a World Heritage site (of which I can’t recall the name, such is the lack of impact it had), but it was pretty enough – unlike the shrine we visited in the previous post, this was throbbing with tourists – I’m only going to post 2 photos from here;
More interesting, was the Bamboo forest – this was on the exit if the shrine, and was free – an exponential increase in quality – value ratio;
The most rewarding part of the day, however, came from the short hike into the hills, and the eventual view into the valley below (remember that small hut in the distance – I go exploring & find that later);
We next travelled down to the town proper, which was further downstream – it was cute enough, but there wasn’t anything too exceptional (although the Monkey sanctuary was fun enough);
Whilst Stephen & Grace went to find some sustenance, my curiosity about the small hut we had seen from the previous vantage point got the better of me, and I decided to go on the hunt – as described on my instagram post, I’m a kid who grew up playing Zelda games, one of the great pleasures of which was always “that building away in the distance – I wonder if I can actually go there?” (hint; yes, you usually could). Japan is a Zelda game.
*note; rather than being an enemy lair, I found a small buddhist retreat;
As always with these posts, there’s a selection of people shots to close with – just faces from the day – we’ve a lot of Osaka blogging to catch up on, so will keep this short(er than normal);
Grace: Arashiyama was high up on my list of things to do in Kyoto. I’d seen pictures of the bamboo forest previously, and it looked very impressive. I’m glad we set a day aside to do this. The bamboo is various beautiful shades of green, and it grows so high! My expectations were definitely met.
After the bamboo we continued our walk through some hills, and finally down to a river, which was the craziest aquamarine-type color. I enjoyed taking pictures of it.
Next we made the steep climb up to see the monkeys. It was so cool to see so many of them so up-close, but they also made me slightly nervous. Some of them are a lot bigger than you might expect, even though I didn’t really get any pictures that captured that.
There were times when they were getting pretty aggressive with each other, and as Stephen mentioned, there were plenty of people doing the exact things that we were advised not to: crouching down near the monkeys, making direct eye contact with the monkeys, and taking pictures from too close of a proximity. Just. Why.
Was totally worth it though – for the monkeys, and for the great view of Kyoto.
And here are some donuts we found a little later (for the cuteness factor).