Mark and I really enjoyed our first day in Kyoto and couldn’t wait to see more. We carefully chose our sights to see, as we are quite afraid of experiencing temple burn-out haha. We chose to visit Arashiyma which lies in the western part of Kyoto.
It took us about 45 minutes from our hotel to get to Arashiyama. We started at the Monkey Park. I love monkeys and Mark loves city views so it was a perfect way to start the day. Before you get to the top, you pass a small shrine and have to hike up a hill for about 20 minutes. It’s very steep and during the hike we were actually wondering why we chose to pay 550 yen to feel like hippo’s trying to climb Mount Everest 😉 Once you arrive at the top, there is a resting area inside a small hut. There are about 130 monkeys that live freely on this mountain, but since monkeys are smart they’ve learned that humans will only give them food if humans feel safe haha. While resting, you can buy some food (peanuts, apples and bananas) and feed the monkeys from inside. There are signs that warn you to keep your food with you because monkeys will snatch them from you.
When you step outside, you’ll instantly see a beautiful view of Kyoto city. The monkeys don’t really pay any attention to you, but the people that work there do ask if you can keep about a 2 meter distance from the animals. I took a lot of pictures and there was one monkey that wanted me to stop. I wasn’t paying attention and before I knew it he started to run after me! Haha, scariest moment of this trip so far.
Our next stop was a Zen temple, Tenryuji which is registered as a World Heritage Site. It took us about 20 minutes to get there by foot. The main reason to visit this temple is to sit and enjoy the garden. Even with all the Golden Week visitors, I was able to fully take in the serenity of the temple.
While exiting Tenryuji you enter the famous Bamboo Grove of Kyoto. There are actually more places to see the high bamboo trees, but this one attracts the most tourists. The high trees make you feel so tiny and it really is a great place to take pictures.
There were 3 temples that followed the Bamboo Grove, but after a while all the temples look a like. We decided to prevent ourselves from having temple burn-out and walked around the beautiful area of Arashiyama. In hindsight, we skipped 1 temple with a beautiful garden and 1 of the most important villa’s in Kyoto haha. There was 1 temple that I really wanted to see, because it seemed to be very different from all the other temples we had seen.
Otagi Nenbutsuji is known to have 1200 stone statues of rakan, characters that are devoted followers of Buddhism. Each of these rakan has a different facial expression. This temple doesn’t attract many tourists because it’s so small (and because Kyoto has 1999 other things to see), but I would definitely recommend visiting this temple. It is my favorite so far.
It was getting late and we still had one more temple to visit today: Daikakuji. There are several buildings on its grounds which are all connected by an elevated wooden walkway.
We tried something new in the evening: Okonomiyaki. When we passed the restaurant, we were drawn in by an incredible scent. We couldn’t see what the restaurant was serving, but were quick to step in and try the food. The restaurant had a huge teppan yaki grill on which the chefs were cooking something that looked like an omelet.
Okonomiyaki is a pancake with many different ingredients such as batter, egg and shredded cabbage. The one we tried as a modanyaki, a modern version of okonomiyaki, which had udon noodles in between two pancakes. It is a typical Kansai dish (the region in which Kyoto lies) and derives from Osaka. I’ve never had this before and don’t think they serve it back home, but it was very good! So tasty and fresh. I think I’ll try to cook this when I get back home.