Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Kyoto Chronicles: Part Three

Once again writing to you from the super-fast Japanese Shinkansen and we're currently hurtling towards Hiroshima for our next stop where we plan to stay for a couple of nights. Planning on exploring the city which is famous for the worst of reasons, and heading out to Miyajima which is meant to be one of the most beautiful places in Japan.

Firstly though, to recap, we've just left Kyoto, so thought we'd do a quick entry on the last 24 hours. Our last day in Kyoto, we decided to head away from the centre and into a smaller district on the outskirts of the city- Arashiyama. Getting there was fun- we caught the tram which was fairly quick and cheap. It's still boiling- the whole of the Kansai region is experiencing a heat wave and temperatures have been in the high 30s over the last few days making walking around challenging to say the least!!!

First stop in this area was a walk around the district which has some awesome souvenir shops and smaller cafe style restaurants for a quick bite to eat. The whole area is very picturesque and the front street is quaint. Rob bought a traditional Tunuki statue which is a raccoon with massive testicles which is meant to bring good luck (of course that's what he chose) to add to our growing collection of Japanese souvenirs including a wooden doll, some rubber sushi, a Japanese lantern, chopsticks and some hello kitty stickers! 

Of course, our day wouldn't be complete without the standard trip to a temple (just one this day as we're both getting a bit 'templed out') and in Arashiyama there is a UNESCO world heritage site temple called Tenryu-ji. This is a peaceful area with a famous zen garden surrounding the main temple in the centre. You would expect that the temples would all start to blur into one but each is incredibly distinct and unique. The garden was definitely the main attraction. It's really nice to see how well-kept the tourist attractions are and you can see where the (nominal) admission fees are going! 

Outside of these gardens we stumbled across the very large bamboo pathway which we had been trying to find earlier that day! It was a huge grove filled with gigantic bamboo trees stretching at least 15metres high. It was a nice walk along the path as they formed an arch blocking out the blisteringly hot sun! 

We headed back to the main street and went for a rest-stop complete with a Japanese treat of lemon flavoured shaved ice!! 

One of the main reasons we came out to Arashiyama was to head to the monkey park which lies nearby! After our stop, we headed past the bridge crossing the river (a nice viewpoint) and towards the daunting set of stairs and the mountain climb which would take us to the home of 130 macaque monkeys (the only species native to Japan). The climb was difficult, particularly with the mercury rising in the thermometer, but after trooping on and sweating our way to the top, it was definitely worth the half-hour trek! 

Iwatayama Monkey Park is a gorgeous park where the monkeys live wild. On the way up, there are signs advising appropriate behaviour which include not looking the monkeys in the eye, not touching them and not squatting next to them to take photos. 

While most of the monkeys are born in the park, and are therefore accustomed to humans entering their domain, we saw enough to know that they are clearly still completely wild and you wouldn't want to get in a fight with one of them!!!

Under the supervision of rangers, it was possible to feed the monkeys through a grate. What was nicer though, was to walk around the park area and see the monkeys without any barrier between you and them. April- July is birthing time so we went at the right time to see all the baby monkeys which were super super cute!! We got way too many photos of the monkeys and Rob had to drag me back down the mountain because I didn't want to leave (I don't think he did either but there was a storm a'brewing). Definitely worth a trip to see monkeys in the 'wild' and the beautiful view over Kyoto.

With the rain starting to come down thick and fast (amazing how quickly the weather can shift out here)  we headed back to the tram for the journey back to our hostel. Quiet night in with some nice food and drink (as per usual). 

We're both really sad to be leaving the hostel in Kyoto and the city in general. The staff were extremely helpful and courteous and this was epitomised by one gentleman in particular who Rob had a bit of a 'bromance' with.....see photo below. Think they'll stay in touch by 'email'.

Excited, but apprehensive to visit Hiroshima. From accounts we've heard it's going to be a very upsetting visit to the museum there, but something we both wanted to experience whilst in Japan! Will update again in a few days to let you know what it's like....

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