Ahh it was nice to sleep in a bed last night and have our own bathroom! The last 3 nights have been spent sleeping in very cheap traditional Japanese rooms which has meant sleeping on the floor and having to share bathrooms. The last one didn’t even have a western style toilet so I had no choice but to squat down and embrace Japanese style peeing! This is pretty much the only negative for me in Japan, oh and their tiny portions of chocolate!
Anyway, having left Osaka yesterday we’re now in Kyoto, Japan’s second largest city. It was actually their capital for over 1000 years. It’s home to over 1600 temples and shrines which makes it the most visited city by tourists. Apparently it has quite a different feel to Tokyo so we’re looking forward to exploring. Not only I am being treated to the luxury of a bed for the next 4 days but we also have free breakfast thrown in. So the day was started with their set menu of a boiled egg, salad (yes, salad for breakfast is normal here!) and some Danish toast. The toast was amazing, more like a sugary pastry. Great for my waistline I’m sure.
We headed to Arishiyama today. It’s a small town towards the outskirts of Kyoto and is popular with tourists as it has a some of Kyoto’s top attractions. The town itself is lovely, it’s surrounded by lush green mountains and has a river running through with traditional Japanese style boats cruising up and down. Despite the flocks of tourists, it actually had a very local feel to it. I think this was helped by all the ladies who were dressed up in kimonos, something we rarely saw in Tokyo! You can actually hire the outfits for the day and get your hair and make up done for around £50.
Our first stop in Arishiyama was the Monkey Park, which is home to over 140 wild macaque monkeys, also known as snow monkeys as they tend to live as high up as possible. Not really knowing what to expect, we headed in and read all the precautionary signs. No crouching in front of the monkeys, no looking them in the eye, no touching them, no feeding them and no photos close to them. So many rules! I wondered what all the fuss was about as we hiked upwards for 10 minutes with not a single monkey in sight.
Reaching the top though we were pleasantly surprised. The view up there across Kyoto city and surrounding mountains was great! It’s much different to Tokyo and Osaka as there isn’t any high rise buildings, instead the Kyoto tower stands above everything in sight and is easy to point out from an otherwise flat landscape.
Next came the monkeys! There was dozens of them wandering around, some were swinging between the trees whilst others lazed around in the sun or splashed about in the pond. They were quite cute, especially the baby ones who played around with each other getting into mischief until their mum obviously put them straight! They were quite fascinating to watch, their mannerisms are so similar to humans. They didn’t seem too bothered about our presence but Nick did catch one of them in the eye and it’s expression quickly changed!
Whilst the monkeys live outside naturally in the forrest, there is a caged area where visitors can go. Inside you can buy nuts and feed them through caged windows, the monkeys surround this cage in the hope of getting food as you can expect! I gave it a go and was surprised how gentle the nut was taken from my hand, Mr Monkey could do with cutting his nails though :). We spent about an hour up with the monkeys before heading back down the mountain via a kids playground, which obviously we had to have a go on as there was a zipline and big slide!
Also in the Arishiyama area is a popular walk amongst bamboo trees called Bamboo Grove. Arriving at the foot of the walk we were surrounded by bamboo that towered above us in all directions. The path itself is probably only 2 meters wide so when you look up you can barely see any sky as the bamboo almost closes you in until you reach the end. It’s quite a surreal experience to be surrounded by nothing other than never ending forests of bamboo, especially as its not something you see everyday in the UK! There’s no charge involved to walk through either so it’s a must do if you ever visit Arishiyama.
From Arishiyama there’s a tramline that runs towards Kinkaku-ji, a famous temple that has an outer layer made from gold leaf. We’ve seen enough temples now so aren’t planning on going out of our way to see anymore, but being as this one was gold, we were persuaded. Our lazy start to the day backfired when we arrived to see it had shut an hour ago! I guess we’ll have to go tomorrow, which is a shame as its quite a way from our hotel.
We were back by 8pm so Nick went to a local climbing gym for the rest of the evening whilst I did a workout and some hotel hunting for the rest of our time in Japan. Apparently Nick was the only one who spoke English at the gym but they were all cheering him on and trying their best to speak English to him, everyone is so friendly here!