A peaceful haven in the heart of traditional Japan. After getting to know Tokyo, my friends and I boarded the bullet train to the old capital of Japan, Kyoto (an obligatory stop in the land of the rising sun. Be sure to put quite a few days aside for this cultural hotspot.
There are thirteen Buddhist temples, three Shintoist shrines and the Nijo fortress, a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site. After so much concrete (Kyoto being a city that appears quite grey at first sight), neon and three days non-stop visiting temples I needed a change of scenery and some fresh air.
Arashiyama is located on the outskirts of the city and is about an hour away by public transport. I fell in love with this area as soon as I got off the bus. It’s surrounded by majestic mountains and a beautiful river that runs under the Togetsukyo bridge or “Moon Bridge”.
There’s an amazing bamboo forest of which I didn’t get a single photo as it was raining.
Most of the tourists you’ll see around Arashiyama are local. It’s the typical weekend getaway spot for the Japanese, so my advice is to go during the week.
I’d read something about a nature reserve full of monkeys, the Iwatayama Monkey Park. So, I paid my admission and listened to the park attendant’s little talk during which she gave us a couple of very important warnings. Don’t take photos on your way up until you get to the top, because you may well be jumped by a monkey, get scared and have an accident. I got to the top after twenty-five minutes via an unfenced track. The second warning was just as important. Don’t take photos of the monkeys at their eye level, they get angry and could attack you.
Climbing to the top I felt an overwhelming calm. The colours were beautiful, it was autumn and the park was full of reds and oranges of every tone. The only sounds to be heard were birdsong and the cries of the monkeys off in the distance. The only person that I met on my way was a young Japanese girl that appears in one of the photos, although it’s a little dark.
On seeing a macac for the first time, I completely forgot what the attendant had said and crouched down to take a photo. MMMMEAACK! Big mistake. It ran at me with his big fierce face. When I saw him coming I immediately stood straight up and tried to be as submissive-looking as I could, keeping very still and looking at the ground. It must have worked because he reacted by totally ignoring me. The cheek! I thought for a moment that he was going to demand that I had over the film or throw my camera on the ground like an angry celebrity.
The climb is rewarded by beautiful views of the city and the surrounding mountains. There’s also a wood cabin up there where most of the monkeys hang out. Inside you can buy fruit (protected behind barbed wire) to feed them. The monkeys stretch their arms inside encouraging you to give them something.
These are the photos of my trip of which I am most proud. I’ll leave them with you. I hope you like the location and I really encourage you all to go to Japan the first chance you get.
I certainly intend to return.