February 25, 2008
I was here a couple years ago and since Osaka is so close, I decided a return would be in order. There were a couple places I didn’t get to
last time so what better reason to come back? That…and the fact that I just really liked it here.
Thanks to my friend Joy, I was pointed in the direction of the Arashiyama area. She told me about the Monkey Park and that I should
really try to get out there as they really enjoyed it. I took her up on her recommendation. First of all, I was able to get some morning
exercise in for the day as I didn’t realize it was going to be a small hike to the top. Secondly, I had the place all to myself. No other
tourists – Western or Japanese were anywhere in sight. It was just me, the workers and the monkeys. And there was the backdrop of
snow. Beautiful! I was careful to not look any in the eye since I was handed a piece of paper at the entrance telling me not to. Poor
monkeys don’t realize that if I am looking at them, I don’t mean any harm. But I wasn’t in the mood to be a victim of a monkey attack
so I would walk right past them. These looked quite similar to the ones I saw in Nagano but without as big of a layer of fur. And they
didn’t have the onsen to soak in. But the backdrop of the mountains and the city was pretty cool. Seemed like the monkeys were digging
What I had no idea about was that the Arashiyama area was going to be such a great little nook in Kyoto. I looked at someone’s Lonely
Planet and it seemed to give a small blurb to the monkey park. I have to say this is one of my favorite areas of Kyoto now. Small
boutiques and nice food stores. And when I was trying to find my way to the bamboo forest, I was having a teeny bit of a problem. That’
s when a Japanese clown on the street mimed for me to stop and asked me where I was going (miming this, of course). I showed him my
map and he mimed the directions for me. Awesome. Does it get better than that?
The bamboo forest was great – if only I had more time in Kyoto so that I could have done the full circuit. Oh well – there might be
another time. Who knows?
My next stop was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. This is quite heavily photographed around here – it is the shrine where you walk through
hundreds, if not thousands, of orange torii (i.e. Japanese gates). There is definitely some awe-factor while being out here. People also
bring smaller orange torii with them to put on small shrines and pray. I don’t really know the full details – but that was what I took in
All in all, my day could have ended there and it would have been more than complete.
Last time I was templed-out by the time I was to go to Ginkakuji Temple. It’s known as the ‘Silver Pavilion’ (though it was never
actually covered in silver). This is one of the more highly praised temples here…but I just couldn’t do it last time. Since I reserved it as
my only temple this time, I was more than ready and looking forward to it. The grounds were beautiful – complete with some rock
gardens. Unfortunately, the temple was under some scaffolding. Oh well. You can’t win them all. But at least I came and saw it this time.
From there I walked down the ‘Path of Philosophy’. Not too many deep thoughts popped into my mind. The biggest thought I had was
to have someone taking a picture of me while appearing to be ‘thinking’. Yup. That’s as deep as it got for me.
Then it was off to Gion to do some geisha and maiko stalking. Before that, it was great just walking around this little area. The alleyways
are great and it almost feels like it’s out of a movie scene. Once the sun went down, some of the geisha and maiko were making their
ways out – mostly into taxis – where they would be heading to wherever they needed to be (or whoever they needed to be with). It was
cold so I threw in my geisha-stalking towel. Sadly, I didn’t see nearly as many as last time. But when playing a small version of the
paparazzi, I guess it’s hit-or-miss and you just never know.
I wrapped up my night in downtown Kyoto before hopping back onto a Shinkansen to take me back to Osaka. Nothing like ending a day
with a hot bath. Even if it did entail being naked with six other Japanese women…
Some geisha/maiko spotting.
In the bamboo forest.
At the Fushimi Inari Shrine.