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Japan, Day 10: Kyoto Part IV

May 25, 2009

Oh man! Last day in Kyoto, and still so much to see!!! The one whole day of rain yesterday totally messed things up 😦 Oh well, at least we were well rested.

Today the plan was to head on to the West side; Kinkakuji was definitely on the agenda, maybe Ryoanji if we had time, then Arashiyama, and then Fushimi-inari. If by chance we had extra time, maybe Nara.

So off to Kinkakuji we go, of course this may be the most photographed temple in Japan:

Kinkakuji

(curse the grey skies!!!!! I tried my hand at some tonemapping, have been reworking the following pic a few times, not entirely sure I’m totally done yet:)

Kinkakuji

Near the exit of the temple grounds, there were some vendors selling things, and they had a sample of green tea with gold flakes. We tried it, and I expected it to be bitter but it was actually sweet and SUPER YUMMY!

Green tea with gold leafs

There was no time for Ryoanji (famous for its rock garden), so we headed to Arashiyama by train to check out the bamboo forest. We first had to take the bus to Kyoto Station, then a JR train. At the bus stop, I saw this funny vending machine selling neckties (and batteries and disposable cameras). Is this for the business man who forgot to wear his tie to work???

Neckties in the vending machine

On to Arashiayama, a really cute little place with old school stores had we had more time, would have been nice to stroll around and take in the scenery. There were mountains to one side, and a river, and just such a nice atmosphere. Luckily the sun was finally starting to show as well, so this whole part ot the trip was really nice.

First, the bamboo forest:

Bamboo Forest

In the vicinity was Nonomiya Jinja, a shrine more than 1000 years old and referenced in Genji-Monogatari (The Tale of Genji, one of the world’s oldest novels). It’s famous among many things, for the black wood Torii (as opposed to the red ones typically seen):

Nonomiya Jinja

Nonomiya Jinja

(I couldn’t decide whether the right or left views looked better so I included both)

At this point I was planning for us to head over to Fushimi-Inari on the opposite end of Kyoto, but since the weather was nice, we decided to trek towards Iwatayama (Iwata Mountain) where a Monkey park is located. Along the way is a famous bridge called the Togetsukyo (Moon Crossing Bridge). This is one corner of the bridge with its name:

Togetsukyo

Apparently the river changes name as it crosses the bridge, and on the west side is Hozu river and on the East is Katsura River. I think these boats were on the East side:

Boats

Iwatayama Monkey Park was right around the corner, so we figured heck, why not. The hike up the mountain was well, quite a challenge for us, we’re so out of shape… We hiked up for about 20 minutes, and near the top, encountered a few monkeys! They would walk right by us, and initially we were freaked out but soon got used to the idea. At the top of the trail, there is a nice lookout, and an enclosure with a fence from where you can feed the monkeys.

Monkey

Gimme some food!

Perched

Here is on monkey guarding the binoculars haha. There is a nice view of the city from here.

That will be 100 yen please

What monkeys do.

Monkey Cleaning

Taking a picture with a monkey:

Monkey hanging out

There was also a small pond with koi in it; sometimes the monkeys would sit and watch the fish as well!:

Koi

View from the area, towards the right side where we hiked up:

View from the top of Iwatayama Monkey Park

View of the city:

City view.

After this, we headed back to Kyoto station. I wanted to stop by Inari to check out the famous lines of Torii, but since we didn’t have much time, hopped on the train to Nara hopefully to catch some deer. At this point the story takes on a rather complicated, unfortunate turn, but let’s just say as a synopsis, that

1) we arrived at Nara at dusk, and the deer were pretty much gone;
2) the trains didn’t come as often as we would have liked, and took longer than we expected;
3) turns out back at Nara station on the way back to Kyoto, we were told that we were almost going to miss the last Shinkansen from Kyoto back to Tokyo unless we left IMMEDIATELY;
4) thus, we had no time to go back to the hotel to pick up our luggage that we had asked them to keep for the day so we wouldn’t be lugging it all around Kyoto.

After some freaking out, we decided that while it sucked, we would just have to make the 3 hour train ride back to Kyoto tomorrow. Luckily, that was the last day in Japan and we hadn’t really planned anything new, but just to chill out and pack and revisit some places we wanted to see again like Harajuku (for the crepes hehe). So the following morning… (continued on next blog post)

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