Yours truly usually plans the itineraries and of course gets her panties in a bunch. Then I proceed to sweat ALL the small stuff. Not the most enjoyable experience for me or for my poor travel companion (sad to say mainly The F Man).
I figured, to repeat this sorry situation on a wonderful trip to Japan would be absolutely disastrous. Do something different, right? So, I took off my bossy pants and let The F Man plan our itinerary, and he did a bloody good job of it. (Thanks BB! You da best!)
Main street of Arashiyama
When The F Man was planning our Kyoto leg of the trip, I mentioned that other than being decked out in a kimono, I also wanted to visit the famous Bamboo Groves in Arashiyama. Those were the two pre-requisites and he could plan away, however he liked, the rest of the sightseeing stops.
I was going in blind. Something I’m not accustomed to. I had no idea where we would be going in Kyoto and I just trusted The F Man to bring me around. At first I was a little bit like… nervous fingernail biting and wild thoughts going crazy about being lost, but after awhile I realised I was being a bit silly. I have to admit though, once I got used to it, it was awesome to just let loose and let it go. (Psst… Control Freak #YOLO moment.)
Hello, Hello Kitty!
I really loved Arashiyama. It was so quaint, so busy and yet so peaceful. Everything was in shades of green and grey. So chio lah (Hokkien slang for pretty).
So much green
Beautiful sights to be seen
I still can’t get over how everyone was so organised. No pushing, shoving, crazy screaming, incessant honking even at such a populated tourist attraction area. Maybe it has to do with how 80% of people there looked to me like they were internal tourists, Japanese travelling to Arashiyama for a break. Everything was calm. Japan really made me look at crowds and self-imposed crowd control very differently.
Cafes and shops by the river
Here were three places we visited on our day trip to Arashiyama in Kyoto. We took it pretty slow that day, so don’t expect a tonne of sites.
ARASHIYAMA MONKEY PARK IWATAYAMA
CARDIO TIME & BOSS MONKEYS
The feeding site of the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
The F Man asked me one day as he was looking at Lonely Planet and all his online holiday research on Arashiyama if I thought it would be cool if we visited “this monkey place”. The conversation kind of went like this.
F: Eh, you want to go to “this monkey place” to see monkeys?
C: Yah, why not? Go lah.
F: Must climb hill, you know.
C: Okay lor.
F: You cannot wear heels ah.
Fine. So I packed my pair of trail shoes with me. It’s a good thing I did too, no matter how comfortable those Crocs wedges are, they wouldn’t cut it.
This hill is no joke. If you don’t even work out normally, this will incur some heavy breathing.
To catch our breath, we would stop now and then to check out the little wooden boards that had fun information about the Japanese Macaques that make the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama home. Those stops really broke up the challenging journey up the hill to the feeding site and it was quite endearing to read about them and see the adorable totally-Japanese monkey illustrations accompanying the text and it made me really look forward to seeing those monkeys up close.
Some monkey alone time, please
Anyway, when we finally reached the feeding area, the sight of wild Japanese Macaques roaming the area and leaping on to the caged windows of the feeding rest stop is totally worth it. Because, let me just put it out there, these fellas are freaking bosses. (#LIKEABOSS all day err day, my man.)
Where’s my food?! Gimme, gimme, gimme!
What do you mean you’re out of peanuts?!
Yet another “Feed Me Human!” look
The monkeys are generally friendly on condition – that you feed them generously with peanuts. Lots and lots of peanuts until their mouths are completely stuffed with them. No
money peanuts, no photos. Well, you can snap away but they won’t be holding still. They just shift around the caged wires to find their next peanut-laden tourist hand.
The hand that feeds me does not get slapped away – for now
Well, at least until that hand has no peanuts – then yes, I will slap that hand away
This was quite the experience. I mean they definitely are adorable and look amazing on camera. They have also got these brazen monkey personalities which make for funny moments – when they hustle each other to try and grab the most peanuts or feed available or when they give you the evil eye for not feeding them. It’s just hilarious.
Gentle reminder to NOT do anything that would upset the monkeys
Of course, these are wild Japanese Macaques, so don’t do anything stupid, like feed them outside, stare them in the eye and challenge them to a monkey duel or touch their oh-so-soft-looking monkey coats. But feel free to sit around on the benches and observe them up close, just lying around and living the life of every bummer’s dreams. Totally worth the climb!
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama (嵐山モンキーパークいわたやまは)
8, Arashiyama Genrokuzan-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 616-0007
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
TOGETSU BRIDGE & TOGETSU CAFE
TOURISTY THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU’RE TIRED OF WALKING
On retrospect, I should have taken more photos at Togetsu Bridge
After that challenging hike up and then down a hill to see a bunch of hungry monkeys, we were pretty hungry ourselves. We remembered passing by Togetsu Bridge, another crowded landmark that I thought, we should take a photo at, for “touristy things to do” sake. Anyway, I also recalled there was a cafe there, so why not right? Grab a photo and then plonk our ass down for some coffee. Sweet.
This is the only decent shot I got… and half my foot is cut off. Unfortunately, it was more difficult to shoot a photo here than expected because:
- The wind was whipping my hair back and forth
- People were jutting out of my head in the photos as they walked past
- I was hogging the very touristy part of the bridge with the name printed on
Now thinking back, I should have taken another shot that was facing out into the beautiful scenery of the Katsura River. But oh well, #regrets. I was also damn thirsty and wanted a drink (and a place to rest my tired ass) so I couldn’t wait to scoot off as well.
It was cold so al fresco seating was cool too
Togetsu Cafe was really nearby so that was where we decided to rest our feet and get some coffee at. Japan cafes are just so pretty all the time. It was very welcoming with all that wood and minimalist decor.
People watching and foot resting in progress
Quaint little cafe – yes, please!
Dramatic, “I am in a cafe” shot
This place is really perfect for some Instagram worthy snaps because the large windows let in so much light and everything looks really nice and warm in here.
I know I look a little nervous here, but eventually I noticed that in Japan, no one really cares if you are posing pretty and trying to take some photos. It was my first few days in Japan when the F Man took these photos of me and I wasn’t quite sure if it would be an awkward experience, but now on retrospect, I swear I could have been more posey and no one would have even batted an eyelid.
So here’s some advice, if you want some nice gorgeous shots, just pose away. Everyone very politely minds their own business and you wouldn’t be out of place… at all.
Origami here, origami there, origami everywhere
Not hipster enough to order real coffee, so we had a mocha instead
If you’re wondering how was the coffee… We weren’t hipster enough to go for “real coffee”. We’re really mainstream folks.
We just ordered a mocha and it was very yummy, plus, more importantly it was visually pleasing too. I mean, look at that three layered mocha. It’s made for the camera. That said, one really can’t go wrong with mocha… or anything for that matter in Japan.
While we only had a mocha, the cafe also serves some really delicious looking desserts including some matcha and azuki bean sweets.
Togetsu Cafe (トゲツ カフェ)
〒616-8383 京京都府 京都市西京区 嵐山中尾下町 54-4
54-4 Arashiyama, Nakaoshita-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto, 616-8383
Togetsu Cafe is open from 11:00am to 7:00pm.
ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVES
THE MUST VISIT ATTRACTION IN ARASHIYAMA
People milling around, but it’s still romantic
Here we are at Arashiyama’s most famous Bamboo Groves, which looks so mysterious and magical all at the same time.
More lovely bamboos
It is also hella romantic. I’m not a girl who’s into the mush, but you’ll see what I mean when I say this place can make any photo look like it came out of a J-dorama.
The next two photos will illustrate:
Yes, I’m looking at you.
This fella here, taken a back that I am actually beautiful
You get the drift. Of course, it’s teeming with people. Who doesn’t want to visit the Bamboo Groves on a trip to Arashiyama anyway? But with some strategic planning, photos like the above still look pretty awesome.
Pre-requisite shot with the Bamboo Grove and with the unavoidable crowd
That said, I didn’t manage to get a nice isolated photo of myself and the Bamboo Groves in the background. You can see in the photo above that there was a trail (long one too) of people just walking around. I gave up and just prayed the bokeh would make everything alright.
Don’t forget to bring a lens with aperture of at least f1.8 or you’ll just get a really busy shot over at the Bamboo Groves.
For fans my boyfriend (I know who you are), here’s a nice token photo of a Wild F Man caught on camera with a typical Japanese transparent umbrella. I’m sure he was happily reliving his childhood memories of imagining himself as Battōsai, Himura Kenshin.
Introducing, Umbrella Samurai Warrior, The F Man
I’m so dead for posting this. You F Man fans owe me!
The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is a scenic and peaceful place and even with so many tourists, it was beautiful in real life and stunning in photos.
I saw many people opting for a Japanese rickshaw ride along the bamboo grove paths and bicycles are also allowed on this path, but I think the slow stroll is a really wonderful experience. One that I preferred to take, because it gave me more time to just take everything in. And well, I’m a city girl after all. Nature and all its splendour is truly a novelty and welcome respite for me.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest (嵐山竹やぶ)
Arashiyama, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is open 24 hours.