Wednesday 15 January 2020:
The last official day in Kyoto, my solo trip almost coming to an end. There’s no other better place to visit than Arashiyama – the place that I LOVE so very much from the bottom of my heart, the place that holds great weight and importance, and the place that is the reason why I will choose to keep coming back to Kyoto.
I chose to take the JR Sagano line from Kyoto station, and alighted at the Saga Arashiyama station. From there, it was a quick 10-15 minute walk towards the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Even though I had Google Maps ready, it wasn’t very necessary because there were a flock of other tourists who were all heading in the same direction so I had them as my guide.
Even though this was my second time visiting the bamboo forest, it never fails to amaze me. The lush, dense greenery provided by the countless of tall sturdy bamboo trees were my silent companions as I strolled along the pathway. Peace, serenity, calm – these were the feelings I experienced in that very moment.
From the end of the bamboo forest trail, I headed off to my next destination: Iwatayama Monkey Park! Google Maps led me on a rather private route since there was no one following my path, but that made my whole experience even better as it truly felt like I was in my own personal bubble. I emerged from one of the small roads and found myself standing by the river bank. On one end of the river, there was a small hut and an elderly man sitting serenely while watching the scenery. That scene inspired me greatly for some reason – it made me envision a future in which I would be like him when I grow old; retired and enjoying the beauty of nature.
Countless of pictures later, I crossed the Togetsukyo Bridge and ended up on the other side of the river bank. From the bridge, I made a right turn as per Google Maps instructions. The entrance to the Iwatayama Monkey Park is a little hidden, so here’s a little tip: after turning, you should see an entrance to a shrine-like place marked by a tori gate. Climb the stairs leading to the tori gate and turn LEFT – there should be a gantry like entrance and that is where you’d have to pay 500 YEN for the entrance fee.
From the gantry, it’s a 20 minute hike up the mountain. The hike is fairly easy, and there are benches along the way should you need a break in between. As you ascend higher and higher, the view becomes increasingly beautiful.
There weren’t any monkeys throughout my hike up the top of the mountain. However, when I reached the summit, which was also where the monkey viewing area was located, I was INTIMIDATED. There were so many monkeys prowling about, and it didn’t help that the moment I climbed up, some of the monkeys were fighting over food so there was a lot of screeching and howling. Thankfully, I got over my initial fear pretty quickly after realising that they won’t attack you out of the blue. Just don’t do anything silly or disrespectful and all will be good.
I actually enjoyed my time at the summit very much, and spent more time there than I thought I would. Being someone who likes to people-watch, this translated into an interest in monkey-watching as well. It’s so fascinating to just sit on the benches so kindly provided, and watch the monkeys go about their daily life. It’s oddly nice watching how they’d scratch each others backs, baby monkeys following their mothers and getting breastfed, mischievous imps stealing food from one another and getting into squabbles…much like humans really.
I was extremely enthusiastic and took countless of pictures and videos of every little thing.
Apart from the monkeys, the scenery at the summit was amazing – being that high up meant having a bird’s eye view of the land below as well as the surrounding mountains which acted as the perfect backdrop.
A good hour and a half later, I was finally willing to descend for lunch. The restaurant which I planned to patronise was none other than Saga Tofu Ine (main branch). I had my first taste of their food 3 years ago, when my family and I stumbled across it by accident as well. I remembered how I admired their food presentation, and the pleasant vibe of the restaurant so I wanted to revisit once more. During my second time in Kyoto, I was hoping to dine there but ended up missing my chance so I swore I wouldn’t miss it this time round.
Since it was 12 noon and not the peak lunch period, I was very lucky to get a window seat at the corner. There was a beautiful view of the mountains, and I could catch a glimpse of the busy streets filled with people.
My lunch consisted of: 1. A bucket of silky smooth beancurd skin in rich soy milk 2. A bowl of multigrain rice which was absolutely fragrant and delicious 3. Some tofu side dishes which I do not know the name of 4. A bowl of steaming hot miso soup 5. Dessert in the form of something that resembles chewy dango. All the dishes were neatly arranged on a black tray, the different cutlery and plates complementing one another.
Lunch that afternoon was extremely satisfying. Not only were my tastebuds pleased, my eyes were blessed. I was able to well and truly take my time to enjoy the meal in a state of pure bliss.
Despite being only noon, I was already so HAPPY and contented. It felt like nothing could get even better. But no, there’s more. Stay tuned for part 2 of the BEST day of my existence! 🙂