Having exhausted ourselves of temples and shrines, we took of for Arashiyama, a neighborhood of Kyoto known for its bamboo forest. Thanks to our JR rail pass we were able to take the 10 minute train ride for free (those passes really were a steal). When we arrived we were greeted by a sea of tourists, so we took off in the opposite direction towards the Arashiyama Monkey Park. Yes, you are reading that correctly. We wanted to see more monkeys and were willing to pay the $5 and suffer through the 20 minute hike uphill to giggle with joy at little Japanese macaque monkeys. Upon arrival at the top we were greeted with a “rest room,” aka a room with chicken wire where you could spend $1 on apples to feed the monkeys. YES! Hehe, I’m still giggling now thinking about those greedy little monkeys sticking their entire arms through the fence eagerly awaiting me to put out my apple-filled hand so that they could snatch it. Oh, and the view of Kyoto from the top wasn’t half bad either.
We headed back into central Arashiyama when we had our monkey fill to grab some lunch. Doug had been wanting to try Japanese curry so we walked the strip perusing the plastic meals placed in the windows, to assist tourists I’m sure, for something that resembled curry. When we found what we were looking for at reasonable price we went in and got our curry on – well, Doug did; Lynn had tempura with egg. With our bellies full we then walked the lake shoreline up through a local park and into the bamboo forest. While it was indeed full of tourists, us being some of them, it was also very beautiful. The sun had a wonderful habit of sneaking through the bamboo tree tops and reflecting light of the tall green stalks in a way that made the whole forest sparkle. We both decided that while we hate the bamboo that grows in our backyard at home like weeds, we wouldn’t mind it if it ended up looking like this.
The remainder of the Arashiyama area is known for its temples and shrines so we were baffled with what to do next. So we both got a green tea/vanilla swirl ice cream cone and took to a bench to figure out our next course of action. We could do shrines or visit a local movie studio lot or try sake. We opted for the sake. After finishing our cones we got back on the train and headed south for Fushimi to visit the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Musuem. While here, we were able to view the original tools used to make sake, read up on the history of the company brand, and try three samples. One tasted like sake we had had previously, one was more licoricey, and the last one was actually plum wine. All three were yummy.
When we were done, we were then again questioning what to do next. We really didn’t want to see another shrine. So while we figured it out we started our walk back to the station via a covered walkway. Here Doug was able to find his newest obsession, chocolate & orange croissants. We made it back to the station and decided to find a bar with a nice patio. We had heard from our tour guide a few days before that a number of places in the Gion area had rooftop bars which could be identified by finding roofs with hanging lanterns. We took the train from Fushimi to Kyoto station then walked the 30 minutes to Gion only to learn that none of these places open until 5 p.m. It turns out that Japan doesn’t share America’s love of day drinking. They don’t know what they are missing out on especially with all their patio restaurants not in use. If anyone wants to move to Kyoto, we have a business idea for you! Tired from our 10 miles of walking thus far, we decided to collapse by the river with other Kyotoites and relax.
So, we didn’t really relax because we don’t know how to do that well. Instead Doug took to TripAdvisor to find us a place for dinner. And oh did he find a place: Menbakaichidai, the home of “Fire Ramen.” This is a father and son run business where they specialize in ramen with a show. The show consists of putting flame engulfed oil on your ramen bowl. In preparation, all utensils and cups must be removed, so as not to melt them. The customers must be covered in aprons, so as not to get hot oil on them. And, bangs must be pulled back, so as not to burn them. Luckily these guys are experts and no eyebrows were actually seared but they did get quite warm. And the ramen, fried chicken, and gyozas that we had were tasty. Especially the fried chicken. If you want to sit in on the fun, we were able to capture a video with the help of owner and their many selfie sticks. You can see it here, the fun starts at 1:45.
Daily Walking Mileage: 15.8 miles
- While walking along the river Doug was able to determine that his step size is 0.79 meters. This will make our daily walking mileage far more accurate.
- You see a lot of people in Kyoto wearing kimonos, far more than other places in Japan. It turns out that the city is attempting to grow this community to add to its charm by offering discounts to restaurants and attractions when wearing one.