Meeting Japan: Arashiyama x Iwatayama

Days since my last post:1

Day 3 of being in Japan took us to Kyoto, a little prefecture about 40 minutes away from Osaka that promised us a traditional look of Japan that we both were looking for. Our first stop was Arashiyama, a district that is well known for the beauty of its bamboo grove in the outskirts of Kyoto.

Even the train station was gorgeous.

The glorious Hankyu Arashiyama Station.

 And what awaits outside. 

I have to admit however that we first had a flaw in our plans as we rushed here following our previous day in Nara, thinking we could explore the famed bamboo grove but it was about 5 PM when we arrived...which was close to the time of sunset in Japan. We were pretty disappointed initially, and thus shifted Arashiyama into our plans for the third day. 

A walk into nature.

 A man sits by the Hozu-gawa river.

Beware the creepy tourist.

We did however come to a realization that Arashiyama held its own beauty between morning and night, and so while we could not explore the bamboo grove, we still enjoyed walking around the Hozu-Gawa river just by the Togetsukyo Bridge. The warm orange lights that lit up the streets was quite a sight to behold, and we figured that it wasn't a wasted trip after all. 

Arashiyama revisited. 

We set out early for Arashiyama, knowing that we had to race against time in Japan as the sun rose by 5 AM and would be ready to call it a day by 5.30 PM. Our train ride took about 45 minutes, and we were greeted by the warm winds of the changing seasons. I had expected the cold throughout my trip, but boy was I wrong. 

ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE

Busking by the groves.

Tourists, tourists everywhere!

With the few exception of locals.

We quickly made our way to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove after having explored the shops the day before. I'd say you definitely have to visit this place to truly believe in its beauty, but be forewarned that there is literally nothing but bamboos on your left and right as you trek up and down the course. It's fairly cooling inside, possibly from all the tall bamboos that shelters you from an unforgiving sun but you could still break into sweats from the walking. 

Always important to find yourself the right travel partner.

Been here, done that. 

The walk from one end to the other takes about 45 minutes, and you'll exit by the Katsura River...which is basically connected to the Hozu-gawa river but separated by the Togetsukyo Bridge. Funny isn't it? The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is open 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week but it's best viewed in the morning of afternoon because there are no lights inside and could become eerie and dark when the sun sets. It doesn't help that you'll pass by a cemetery just before you arrive the start of your walk, so the creepy factor escalates. 

IWATAYAMA MONKEY PARK

It was nice to see children playing outside.

At the foot of the Iwatayama Monkey Park.

Before the hike. 

Our next course was a bit of an unplanned trip, as my other half suggested we take a 20 to 30 minute hike up the Iwatayama Monkey Park to see...well...monkeys. A part of me was a little reluctant because a hike was probably the last thing on my mind, but another part of me told myself to just go with the flow of whatever came. And so began our hike. 

It was no monkey business.

Located by the Hozu River, the Iwatayama Monkey Park costs ¥500 per person to enter. I'd definitely advise you to wear proper covered shoes and not explore the place with slippers as the winding slopes can get slippery. Water is also pretty important, and a whole lot of stamina. If I were not petty with my ¥500, I guess I would have given up and left midway.
And baby monkey! 

The end journey was pretty worth it however, because you get the see the monkeys left out in the wild and just doing their own thing. There were staffs to ensure the safety of tourists so the monkeys don't come out to scratch your or whatsoever, but everything else felt like quite a pleasure to look at. Monkey food consisting of peanuts and fruits were also being sold at ¥100 a pack, but by the time we wanted to make a purchase, the staff had told us that the monkeys were all really well fed so they could not spare us any so as to make sure the animals were not overfed. Talk about caring for their well-being!

Overlooking Kyoto.

Another point in climbing the Iwatayama Monkey Park had to be this: The fact that you were 525 feet above sea level for a great view of Kyoto right below you. The view was incredible, but it could have been nicer had it not been a little gloomy on the day we were there. The hike down definitely felt easier than the one up, but I'd say it was quite an unforgettable adventure. Brownie points to my other half for initiating this hike because I otherwise would have skipped it myself.

Iwatayama Monkey Park
Open daily from 9 AM - 4.30 PM

Saying goodbye.

The overall experience in Arashiyama was surprisingly satisfying, and though we had gone twice, we both think there were still hidden gems around this precinct we had yet to explore. Another return beckons perhaps? 

Arashiyama is reachable via both the Hankyu trains or JR trains, taking about 45 minutes from Osaka Namba. As our Kansai Thru Pass allowed us on all trains except the JR, we were on the Hankyu train that felt rather nostalgic throughout the journey. The Sagano Scenic Railway also departs here, taking you on a scenic 7-kilometre journey through the forested ravines of Hozu-gawa river and the rural Kamoeka for about 25 minutes. We're determined to try it out on our return to Arashiyama in the near future.

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