My first full day in Kyoto consisted of visiting two of the most popular sights Kyoto has to offer – the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the Iwatayama Monkey Park.
First up was Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which was definitely beautiful, despite the hoards of tourists swarming about everywhere. It feels quite etherial and a bit like you’re in a fairytale when you walk along the pathways.
Along the route I saw a lot of people with little pet dogs everywhere. One particular thing that stood out was the fact that a lot of these dogs where chilling in pushchairs. When you glimpse into a pram expecting to see a human baby face, and instead you see little furry snouts staring back was pretty amusing to me. I even saw one person pushing a pram with two cats inside. Fur babies are real people, and in Japan you take them with you everywhere apparently! It was madness and I love it. I saw some lady forcing her tiny, dressed up chihuahas to stand still together so she could take photos of them in the bamboo forest. I had to stand there and laugh at the extremes Asian people go to to get that perfect shot!
A lot of people were dressed up in the traditional Kimono and Samurai get up whilst walking around the forest so they could get good photos. It was another scorching hot day, so at that moment I did not envy them all wrapped up in those layers hobbling around in those horrendously uncomfy Geta clog/flip flop things with the weird toe socks. But the kimono thing was definitely something I wanted to do at some point (and later did, read about it here!).
If you couldn’t be bothered to walk through the forest, you could pay some poor Japanese bloke to pull you about on a rickshaw. I say “poor bloke” they were actually overly enthusiastic about doing it judging by what I observed; laughing and joking as they pulled the two fully grown humans in the back up and down the pathways in the heat. That’s definitely one way to keep fit!
Once I had fully explored the bamboo forest I started the walk over to Iwatayama Monkey Park. The views along the walk were amazing. Kyoto is such a stunning city!
I also stumbled upon a shop which only sold traditional Japanese hand fans, so obviously I had to go in! I was on the hunt for a fan for my mum, my nan and my uncle (and possibly myself). The shop was gorgeous and there were millions of fans to choose from, it was so hard to reach a decision. But I walked out a happy bunny with four new fans, hoping my choices would be well received by the family! They were quite pricey though, as a lot of things in Japan are.
Upon approaching the entrance for the monkey park I saw the signs about how the walk “up” to the monkeys was roughly 20 minutes. Up? Yes, bloody up. Up and up and up. On a nice boiling day. Ah what fun. I didn’t realise it would be a mini hike up the mountain to reach them. I think it took about 20/30 minutes to get up there though, so it wasn’t TOO bad, it was just very hot! The walk began with some concrete stairs and then continued with steep, sloping pathways complete with sheer drops alongside. So I huffed and puffed my way up, but it was definitely worth it!
Along the way they had little signs with facts about the monkeys in very broken English, and one of my particular favourites was a sign which detailed the facial expressions of the monkeys:
Angry or SCARY. Is a difference understood?
When not seeing an upper tooth it’s a angry.
I still laugh everytime I read it.
When you get up to the park itself it’s great. None of the monkeys are enclosed – they are all completely wild Japanese Macaques. On the contrary, it is the humans that go inside a cage to feed the monkeys which was awesome – the way it should be! You can buy some monkey food in the hut and then go along to the cage and feed them through it, which is what I did. They all hold out their hands through the wire impatiently, barely even acknowledging you, they just look at you exasperatedly like “yes, I am monkey, *sigh* give me ‘nana, idiot”.
Outside of the cage there are just acres of trees, grass and mountainous goodness for the monkeys to call home, it really is a wonderful place for them to be. There is also a little pond with a water feature which was really pretty and gave the monkeys somewhere to drink from!
Wandering around there were literally hundreds of them everywhere. They were completely unphased by all of the humans watching them and would go about their daily grooming like we weren’t even there which is good. I walked into a little shady, tree-lined area and was lucky enough to see a mumma monkey breast feeding her baby which was amazing! Some of the baby monkeys were playing in the trees which was hilarious to watch, bouncing around on the branches like their own trampolines. You had to dodge their poop at times too!
They have people who work there sat about warning you not to touch the monkeys and to keep your belongings close to you, as if they sense an opportunity they will grab hold of whatever is lying around – especially if it is edible! The term “cheeky monkey” is literally so so apt.
The views from up there on the mountain were again spectacular. You could pretty much see the whole of Kyoto from up there, and they had a big sign pointing out where some of the main tourist spots are on the viewline, which was good fun to try and spot them.
When in Kyoto I would say that both of these things are absolute must sees, especially as you can do both on the same day as they are within walking distance from each other, and the views along the way are gorgeous.