A short distance from Kyoto, north west of the city and easily accessible by train is the town of Arashiyama, a picturesque town in the Kyoto basin. Arrive early and explore the Bamboo Forest, another attraction which quickly fills with tourist snapping away happily so if you want a secluded shot, get there early! The Bamboo trail isn’t long, but it is beautiful and if you go in the summer the shade is a welcome break from the hot July sun. Despite the number of tourists it felt very tranquil, visually it was stunning and unlike anything else I had seen before.
Also in hilly Arashiyama is the Monkey Park Iwatayama. It was on my Japan bucket list to see some of the infamous macaques, I’m obsessed with them after seeing them on a nature program chilling, as cool as you like, in a hot spring. The monkeys in Arashiyama were not of the snow variety, which I guess was a blessing in the 30 + Degree heat of a summer in Kyoto. It’s about a twenty minute hike up the mountain to the park, and at the top you are greeted not only with a spectacular view but also with crowds of monkeys. Zoos make me sad, but at Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama the monkeys definitely call the shots, roaming as free as you like, full of character and attitude. My favourite was a mama with her tiny baby, if I could have taken them home to cuddle on the sofa I’d probably have rabbies right now.
I really enjoyed our day in Arashiyama , the landscape of was remarkably different from that of Kyoto city despite being only a short distance from the centre. Having strolled through the ethereal bamboo forest and visited the Monkey Park Iwatayama we then, guided by my trusted Lonely Planet Travel Guide, discovered Okochi Sanso Garden. The garden is a little haven of tranquility, take a book and spend an afternoon. There are multitudes of pathways scrolling over the landscaped garden, delicious with luscious greenness. I imagine it’s particular stunning in Autumn as well. The garden was owned and cultivated by Japanese Film Star Okochi Denjiro in the grounds surrounding his villa, wandering the gardens you definitely get the feel for his eye for detail, each turn greeting you with a surprising element. The garden costs 1000 Yen to get in which is maybe why it was one of the quieter places we visited, although that price also includes a Matcha green tea and a little sweetie in the cafe, although I’d say it was 1000 Yen well spent just for the blissful tranquility.
We decided to avoid the novelty of cat cafes or robot restaurants whilst in Japan, but it wouldn’t be Japan if you didn’t partake in some foodie novelties. So, back in Kyoto city, not far from the Nishiki Market we joined a queue of fifty minutes for a restaurant that you essentially ordered your Ramen from non dispensing vending machine. Like a secret society, or illicit club we were then were ushered into single booth where the food appeared from behind a curtain and you were left to slurp your Ramen in peace. A little seedy, no? Ramen I believe is best enjoyed when it is so hot it trickles it down your throat like a delicious scalding ointment, so there’s nothing for it but to grab your chop sticks and start shoveling what noodles, meat and liquid you can down your throat. Honestly, I enjoyed the secrecy and quiet of it all, and pouring it down your throat at the end without any judgement was immensely satisfying.