day 5: kyoto, japan

There’s just something about Kyoto that I find awfully soothing. Perhaps it’s the peaceful, uncluttered streets in the mornings, or the fact that I genuinely feel as if I’m in a different world as soon as I step foot outside.

Kyoto . . . a place of culture, so I’ve been told. The narrows alleyways and adorable, anime-like warning signs can be found around a bend. Telephone lines paint the skies to create an abstract work of art. Bicycles are left unchained because it is a seemingly safe place. And ryokans can easily be found here.

One of the best things about Japan, in general, are that vending machines are everywhere. There’s nothing like purchasing a warm beverage to hold onto while taking a stroll in the cold, winter mornings.

When we got to Arashiyama, I was pleasantly surprised by how scenic it was as soon as we passed all the shops that paved the way to the wooden bridge. I must have stood there taking photos for a while because I was taken aback by how beautiful it was.

And the most anticipated place I’ve been so excited to visit was the monkey park; the entrance was a short distance from the bridge. Now I’m not exactly the most fit person (trying to change that), so the hike up was a bit of a workout for me. On the other hand, the hike for Brian was quite easy. I kept telling myself that this hike is worth it for the monkeys, and as soon as I saw a few stragglers monkeys, I got amped up to get to the top where all the monkeys chilled at. You can tell how excited I was because I took A LOT of pictures. And I mean, A LOT. We also spent about 2 hours up there!

If you ever get a chance to visit, just don’t stare at the males in the eyes (there are plenty of warning signs about this among other rules). I was scared pointing my lens at the monkeys, but it seemed fine.

After lunch, we visited the Bamboo Groves. It’s only about 1/3 of a mile long, and I thought we would walk through it quickly since I wasn’t too interested in it, but it’s actually pretty amazing in person.

Our last stop in Arashiyama was the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street.  It was quite a trek to finally arrive here, but it was well worth it. The street is lined with traditional homes and stores. Unfortunately for us, most of the shops were closed; I’m not sure if it’s because we got here an hour before the sun was to set or if it was a seasonal closure (as in, not travel season).

When we got back, we were finally able to check into our friendly ryokan, Matsubaya Ryokan. If you’re ever in Kyoto, I highly recommend staying at a ryokan. It feels so much more cozy than a hotel (hotels in Japan tend to be quite small). The staff is very friendly and welcoming. I like the fact that there’s a tea table and tea provided! They even provide yukata (traditional Japanese robes for sleeping)! Awesome!

After a short rest, we ventured out to Miyagawacho, an entertainment district on the banks of Kamo river as large as Gion. I thought the restaurants would close late (as in, past 8pm), but I was wrong. We ended up finding this ramen spot that was open, thankfully. I got their most popular ramen, and the soup-base was different. I’ve actually never had anything like it before . . . it was thick and filling.

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