Day 6: Arashiyama (嵐山 [Storm mountain]), Arashiyama monkey park Iwatayama, and Nijo Castle (二条城)
Starting the day early, we took the subway for a few stop from Kyoto station to the saga-Arashiyama station. Once at the station, you just have to turn right and walk straight toward the Tenryuji (天龍寺) temple area. Surrounding it is a pathway which happens to be a bamboo grove. Perhaps its a good idea to do this early as it gets crowded and the path is narrow. The sun wasn’t fully out, but there was enough light for some photos.
The end of this path leads you toward the Katsura river (桂川). I would imagine how colorful everything would be during a different season, but it was still scenic to walk by the river. The water is a nice blue.
You’ll eventually reach the Togetsukyo (渡月橋) bridge across the river.
Once across, you make a right and walk for about 5 minutes until you come across the entrance to the monkey park Iwatayama trail.
It takes about 20 minutes or so to get to the top of the hill (160 meters). It’s a nice walk and totally worth it. You’ll know you’re at the top when you see the 100+ Japanese macaques all over the place.
The rules are to not make eye contact, no touching, and no feeding unless you are in the cage house. These guys are territorial and tend to quarrel and fight every now and then especially when food treats are involved.
Did I mention that the monkey park is on top of a hill. Which means you have great views of Kyoto.
So after seeing a battle of the ages between to monkeys which had them rolling down the hill while the other monkeys cheered on, it was time to also descend the hill into the town. So backtracking across the bridge into the main street. There is plenty of shopping here. Also for lunch, there are plenty of eat spots. Speaking of, we just randomly walked into a small sushi store called Naritaya and it turned out to serve the best unagi (eel) I ever had.
Since we still had some time, we decided to visit the Nijo castle which consists of 2 fortification rings, 2 palaces, and gardens. It’s quite a large open space so be prepared for walking. The main building is the Ninomaru (二の丸) palace where visitors get the opportunity to enter and walk around, but have to leave your shoes at the entrance. No photos allowed, but I can tell you that it was impressive and worth a visit. I did manage to take some photos of the grounds.
It turns out that Japan is more than just the big city scene. There is the country side, mountains, rivers, history, palaces, and monkeys. For tomorrow, instead of monkeys, there will be deer… and ninjitsu.