Kyoto Part II – Arashiyama Adventures (嵐山の冒険)

Immediately after the Toei Studio Park, which I talked about in a previous post, a big group of CLSers decided to gather and head to Arashiyama. Arashiyama is an area in western Kyoto, famous for some beautiful scenery.

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So, we boarded a little teeny train a short walk from the Studio Park and headed off. Before arriving, I really hadn’t even heard of Arashiyama, let alone knew anything about it. But my friends assured me it would be great – and when we got there, I wasn’t disappointed!

Arashiyama is known for this beautiful river, the Oi River, as well as Iwatayama and a number of famous temples as shrines, and even a bamboo forest!

After exploring around a bit, we decided to do the climb to reach the infamous “Monkey Park” on the top of the mountain, Iwatayama.

Looks cute, right? But before reaching the monkeys was a very challenging hike. At the ticket gate, the gatekeeper insisted that Isa – who was dressed in yukata and geta (Japanese wooden sandals) – borrow a pair of crocs in place of her sandals, as the hike would be practically impossible without comfortable shoes. I thought it was interesting that the gatekeeper had a supply of various sized crocs to offer women wearing uncomfortable shoes – never see something like that in the US! We also learned that the monkeys, although very cute, are actually not always so nice! We were warned not to look directly into their eyes as they may interpret this as a threat, and make an attack. Eeek!

I also think it was at this point that I came to fully appreciate the meaning of the expression 「蒸し暑い」 (mushi atsui – meaning muggy, humid, sticky-hot). It was truly hot that day, and since we were climbing a mountain, I could definitely feel the difference between Kyoto heat and dry heat that I’m used to. It makes you a whole different kind of uncomfortable, haha! This is because Kyoto is basically located in a valley with mountains on all sides – heat and humidity just pools, making the city just unbearably hot in the summer. Anyways, back to Iwatayama!

And at the very top, the infamous monkeys!

Needless to say, I was completely terrified of these little guys. I was more than happy to let my brave friends get close to them while I stand back and take photos – with a zoom! Haha.

Aside from monkeys, the mountaintop offered some pretty impressive views of Kyoto.

You could also go inside the little building to buy drinks and snacks – not just for you, but to feed the monkeys!

Some fearless little kiddos feeding an eager mommy and baby monkey.

Back outside, it was possible to climb a bit higher and get an even more expansive view of Kyoto, so we went for it! Although we met some more monkeys along the way.

I can’t believe Gun got this close to the monkey. I snapped the photo and told him to get the hell away from it!

After we finished exploring the Monkey Park, we made our way back down the mountain, and stopped at the shrine at the bottom for a quick rest.

We made our way back down to the river to deliberate where to head next. The afternoon light over the mountainside and across the river was just too gorgeous – I couldn’t stop taking photos.

Me in front of the Oi River.

I caught Aki and Dylan bromancing.

We strolled down the river and eventually found the entrance to a park – which turned out to be a really awesome area to explore!

Isa posing in front of a very angry-looking statue of a man we found. Ha!

Perfectly appropriate time and place for a ヤンキー (yankee) style pose!

So here’s the best part of this beautiful park: the Bamboo Forest!

This was actually one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen in my life. Practically a scene straight out of a movie. You wouldn’t believe how tall these things were – I didn’t even know that bamboo could grow so high!

The Bamboo Forest path lead straight into some beautiful temple grounds. It was under repair at the time, but there was plenty of beautiful gardens to explore.

We actually only arrived at the gate to the temple less than an hour before it’s closing, but I’m so glad we decided to just go for it anyways. The gardens were some of the most beautiful I saw while I was in Japan – I can’t imagine how amazing it must be when the entire thing is open to the public, and not partially under construction.

After such a long day, we were all totally exhausted, needless to say. But Arashiyama was one of my favorite places I visited all summer, and is definitely a place I want to return someday. If you’re visiting Kyoto, it’s an absolute must-see – there is just such a variety of beautiful things to do and see. There was plenty more that we just didn’t have a chance to get to.

Although the following week at Doshisha was filled with work for my classes, I also managed to visit many more places around Kyoto. Plenty more photos to come!

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