07 Jun Kinkakuji and Arashiyama
Getting a bus to Kinkakuji
The first place on our list for the day was Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) and we needed to get a bus there. Google maps told us what number bus would get us there directly. The bus stop was on the corner, just up from the Citadines. Sounds easy we thought. We found the bus stop and waited for a while, until we saw 2 buses with Kinkakuji as the destination, drive past without stopping. We thought we had seen one bus pull over further up the road, so walked in the direction until we came to a bus stop. Eventually we got on a bus and were heading towards Kinkakuji.
On the way the announcement system said the bus would be stopping at Nijo Castle. Damn, if only I had known it was on the same route, I could have planned it on the same day. The buses going to the main tourist attractions have announcements that tell you which stop to get off at and information about each place. Just over half an hour of riding on the bus, we got off at the stop closest to Kinkakuji and a short walk brought us to the entrance.
TIP: grab a bus map from the tourist info centre at Kyoto Station.
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
Often shown in photographs during each season, Kinkakuji is a very famous site of Japan and for good reason, it’s Gold! Known in English as The Golden Pavilion, it is a zen Buddhist temple containing relics of Buddha. The first floor is made of wood and white plaster while the two upper floors are covered in gold leaf. A shining phoenix stands on the roof.
The first view you get of The Golden Pavilion is from across the pond surrounded by gardens. When we entered, there was someone ushering people the right way. You can stand in front of the fence to take a photo with the iconic temple in the background. During our visit at the end of October, Kinkakuji’s gardens were shaded green. As much as I love the lush green leaves, I adore the images of The Golden Pavilion in winter when it stands out amongst the white snow.
After viewing the temple from across the pond, you then follow the path and walk behind it to get a close up view. The path then winds through the gardens and leads to the exit. Kinkakuji is a very popular tourist site but it didn’t feel over crowded and I think this is due to the system they have in place to encourage people to move along after viewing the temple from the first spot. This keeps the crowds flowing rather than gathering together in one area.
Before leaving Kinkakuji, I bought a souvenir from a little store. Neither of us are big on buying souvenirs but I wanted something that had Kyoto written on it. I got a face towel that says Disney on tour Kyoto. It has pictures of the Disney characters in traditional Japanese clothing, it’s cute and was easy to fit in the backpack.
Japan sure knows how to provide vending machines. These were at the exit of Kinkakuji. Out of the seven pictured, three vending machines had a variety of drinks ranging from cold soft drinks to hot coffees; one dispensed the chosen drink in a cup with ice; two were stocked with ice-creams and one supplied instant cup noodles.
Getting from Kinkakuji to Arashiyama
From Kinkakuji, we walked 1.7 km to Kitanohakubaicho Station and purchased tickets on the machine outside to Arashiyama. We got on the retro looking purple tram and had to make a transfer at Katabiranotsuji Station. It was here we made a stupid mistake. The transfer time was a quick 2 mins and after we stepped off the tram, we stepped onto another one that had pulled up. On the other track. Opposite to the one we had just traveled on. The problem was we were meant to get off the first tram and wait for another to come along the same tracks. The one we got on was heading towards central Kyoto. We didn’t know that at the time, we just knew we were going the wrong way. After realising the first stop wasn’t right, we got off at the second and corrected our mistake.
We soon arrived at Arashiyama Station, which gave a nice vibe as soon as we stepped off the tram. The path leading from the electric railway into the station was lined with light cylinders in all different designs. Inside the station was covered with bamboo, clearly a nod to the areas famous bamboo grove.
Upon exiting the station, we were in a street lined with traditional style restaurants. We took the opportunity to have lunch before hiking uphill to the monkey park. We chose one place as they had window displays of their food so we knew what they served. I also peaked inside to check the seating. often small eateries in Japan weren’t suitable for a toddler as majority of the seats would be counter style.
We entered and a little lady gave us a big friendly smile and lead us to one of the tables along the wall. She gave us the menus and brought us hot green tea and a glass of water for Fletcher. We both ordered beef udon by pointing to the menu. In no time at all the lady brought over two steaming bowls of beef udon, along with a small bowl and fork for Fletcher. How thoughtful! I’d planned on sharing with him but thought I’d have to help him eat with my chopsticks, this made our lunch enjoyable. I put some of my noodles, beef and broth into his little bowl and added some of his water to cool it down and he happily fed himself and ended up getting more from Tim.
The broth was so delicious and the beef tender. It was a wonderful family meal and excellent value. We all left full and ready for the next part of our day.
We crossed over the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge, which is known for being picturesque with the Arashiyama mountains as it’s back drop. It’s particularly beautiful when the autumn colours peak giving the mountains bursts of reds, orange and yellow.
Iwatayama Monkey Park
Just after the bridge are the entrance steps to the monkey park. We went up the steps and to the ticket booth where we paid for our admission. We were given a little card with a photograph of a cute baby monkey and instructions saying not to look the monkeys in the eye or feed them on the way. Fletcher was impressed with the little monkey toys displayed in the window.
We begun the uphill walk and came across these signs soon after. That zig zag on the map was concerning me but it was a pleasant hike along the mountain trail. We could hear monkeys scurrying around the forested area, and at one point some ran out of the bushes fighting.
The monkeys at Iwatayama are Japanese Macaque’s and the park is home to over 120 of them. All the monkeys are wild but they are fed by staff at the feeding site during the day. We reached the end of the trail and entered the hut, where you can purchase food to feed the monkeys through the windows. We chose a bag of apple slices and handed them to the monkeys that had gathered on the outside of the window.
I spotted this little monkey and was very excited as I hadn’t been expecting to see any babies during our visit. After watching this little one for a while we left the hut to look around.
The flat ground outside in front of the hut is the feeding site. During the day the monkeys wander around the site, which offers a wonderful view of Kyoto.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed my lens was dirty so all my photo’s of the view turned out terrible. A staff member approached us and offered to take our photo in front of the view. He sat some nuts on the ground at our feet to encourage a monkey to come into the shot.
I couldn’t read the Japanese on the sign and wasn’t sure what the English meant. John commented below that it reads “keep your hands on your bags at all times”. So I guess it was meant to say don’t take a load off!
We turned around to find these two little cheeky monkeys playing with each other. I watched them for ages acting like any other children, playing, teasing and fighting.
There were several monkeys climbing all over the hut and resting on the roof. To the right of the hut is a small pond, beside that were large steps up to a small grassed area. There were some older monkeys up there lazing and sleeping.
I could have stayed at Iwatayama all day and happily watched the monkeys, but we needed to keep moving. To exit the top feeding site of the monkey park you could walk down the steep steps or slide down a slide. I was too scared of getting stuck in the narrow slide so chose the steps. The ground below had a very old playground. We followed the path back down, being careful not to slip on any loose rocks, and made it to the bottom.
We walked back over the Togetsukyo Bridge and then wandered along the path above the river bank for a little bit, taking in the scenery.
We walked back past the station to visit Tenryuji, a zen temple complex established in 1339 and now a UNESCO world heritage site. Tenryuji’s buildings were destroyed several times by both war and fire, meaning all the buildings are reconstructions, some as recent as the 1900’s. When we visited, only the garden could be entered, which remains in its original form. It was designed as a strolling garden centering around a large pond, that features many large rocks.
Once you have walked around Tenryuji’s garden, you can exit through the north gate. This will bring you to Arashiyama’s famous Bamboo Grove. A walking path leads through a forest of tall green bamboo.
We didn’t walk the entire path. We turned around and walked to Saga-Arashiyama Station and took a train to Kyoto Station. It was almost 5 o’clock when we got back to the Citadines. I made sure all our clothes were packed, ready for the next morning. We went to the 7-11 across the road to buy our dinner, drinks and things for breakfast.
The photo doesn’t really look appetising , but the meals really are quite good. Fletcher had a meat hamburger with pasta and corn. Tim’s was spaghetti with sausage and I think I had some sort of noodles. We got everything we could ready to go for the next morning. We would be getting a train and then picking up our hire car.