Arashiyama

Last month I took a trip to Kyoto to visit my friend Laura who`s studying at the university there. I had worked the Saturday before so I had the Friday off as a substitute holiday and I got the train down to Kyoto on Thursday evening. I`m very lucky that Kansai is so accessible from Kanazawa, it takes 2 hours 20 minutes to get to Kyoto and costs about 6,000 each way which is very reasonable. Kanazawa is currently not linked to the shinkansen network but it`s in the process of being connected and I think it`s due to open in 2014. I just hope they don`t get rid of the Thunderbird Limited Express.

I didn`t have any definitive plans for what I wanted to do, I had thought of taking a day trip to Nara to see some of the temples, but instead I ended up going to a music festival in the mountains on Saturday and Sunday. Laura had a university trip to an elementary school on Friday that I unfortunately couldn`t go along to, so she lent me her bicycle and I cycled along the river to Arashiyama, which is famous for its bamboo groves and monkeys. I didn`t get around to seeing the bamboo, but I did see the monkeys and the beautiful river scenery. It took about half an hour to cycle along the river, and I would definitely recommend it as a way to travel around, although you do have to be careful when the cycle paths reconnect with the roads and you`re in great danger of being knocked down. The bridges are the worst areas because sometimes there`s just no clear way to cross the road. But it was refreshing to get out to the residential areas where it was quiet. I stopped off at a convenience store on the way to get some lunch and I had a little picnic in a park beside the river.

I went to see the monkeys in Iwatayama which is a park within which Japanese macaques roam freely. It was my first time to see these monkeys, although many people I know went to Nagano during the winter to see the monkeys that escape the cold of the snow by hanging out in hot springs. When I first entered the park at the foot of the mountain, I still had my plastic bag from lunch (because bins in Japan are few and far between) and the lady explained that if the monkeys see plastic bags they assume it`s full of food and they snatch it off visitors, so she gave me a handbag to put it in. The 10 min hike up the mountain was pleasant, and when you get to the summit you have a great view out over Kyoto and get to see tens of monkeys wandering about, minding their own business unless someone wants to give them food.


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Togetsukyo (Moon Crossing) Bridge is the most visible landmark in Arashiyama. It was originally built during the Heian Period (794-1185) but this version dates from the 1930s. On the southern bank of the river there is a gravel park with seats to sit and look at/paint the view. On the northern bank are tourist shops and restaurants. The weather was beautiful and it wasn`t too busy that day, probably because it was a weekday.  When I left the monkey park, I met up with Laura at the bridge and we wandered around the riverside. The light was really beautiful, and I cycled back along the river as the sun was setting.

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