Thursday – April 13, 2017
We started our morning at a breakfast place that Pete had spotted yesterday. Literally, a half block away from our Air BnB, Komeda’s Coffee was this crazy IHOP on steroids with great food and super fair prices. Any of the specialty drinks or coffee orders come with toast. On top of that they have these massive breakfast sandwiches for no money at all. I took half my meal home it was so much.
Iwatayama Monkey Park
After dropping off the leftovers in the room we hopped on a couple of trains and made our way to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. The park is a bit outside of the city and is located half way up a mountain. Getting to the park requires navigating your way through a small but crowded village down a busy main street with no sidewalk and tons of visitors.
Panoramic view of the mountains near the Monkey Park
There are great views of the mountains as you approach the entrance. Admission to the park is only 550 Yen. Once you pass the gate entrance, you still have to hike 20 minutes up a narrow dirt path with two way traffic and the occasional motorized scooter. The hike is really scenic and is in the woods/forest.
It felt like we were walking through Jurassic Park or something. About 90% of the way up the trail there is a little play-ground area with a small zip-line, swings, a see-saw, and a slide. I obviously tried the zip-line and the slide before continuing up to the top.
Overview of the monkey park
The top was filled with tourists trying to get their best Facebook and Instagram selfies. There was a little section where you could go in, buy food and feed the monkeys. To be honest, the place wasn’t as littered with monkeys as we though it would be, but it’s not like we didn’t see any either, there were plenty of them.
It was also just a great spot to look out at the city and nature below. To top it off, today was the best weather we’ve had the whole trip. Not only was it sunny but it was warm too, about 68 degrees (20c).
After we’d had our fill of monkeys. We made our way back down the mountain and along the water to Tenryu-ji Temple. To be honest, we weren’t super interested in checking out the temple, but I had read that the North exit leads to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
[perhaps add the bit about how, as usual, Pete, like a squirrel with ADD, got sidetracked by a car in the parking lot and preceded to take pictures of it for 20 minutes while Dan and I waited impatiently.]
Unfortunately, in order to exit from the North of the complex, you need to enter, which means paying, which we didn’t want to do. So, we figured out the general direction we needed go and headed back to the main street to get to the bamboo forrest.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
After passing what should have been an obvious entrance to the bamboo forrest, (everyone was going there), we made our way back and eventually into the grove. The place was packed with people and was, I’ll admit, a bit underwhelming at first. I thought, based on pictures I’d seen online, that the trees would be more tightly packed.
The Bamboo Grove
Eventually however, we found a different section that was closer to what I had in mind. That said, there was one section of the path that we never explored and I’m wondering if that was the section I was thinking of/looking for.
After chillin’ in the grove for a bit we were ready to move on to the next thing. Cut to a montage of us walking back and forth on the main drag looking for the train station to take us to the next stop only to realize that we had to go to the same station we had arrived at in the first place.
We eventually took the two trains that got us the closest to where we wanted to go and after a short walk through the local town, we made our way to the Rioan-ji Zen Garden. The place was more than what I expected it to be. Rather than just being an indoor/outdoor Zen garden, it was an entire complex.
Admission was 500 Yen but you got to explore all the grounds. There was a small pond with an “island” in the middle you could walk out to. There were also small paths with these cool little trees and plants in them. But obviously the highlight was the Zen garden itself.
This was the first place (and last place) we went to that required us to take off our shoes. We walked the wooden walkway out to the opening with the Zen garden. There I waited my turn to sit at the edge and contemplate in silence. Despite the fact that I was acutely aware that the longer I sat, the more people I prevented from doing the same, it was a good moment of “Zen” from the fast pace of this trip.
Once we had all caught up to each other, we made our way to the final stop on the list, the Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion.
The pavilion was a 20 minute walk from the Zen garden and I knew it was set to close at 17:00. I was somewhat aware of the time but figured that even if we couldn’t enter the temple, we could at least enter the park.
We arrived at, I shit you not, 16:59. There were guys at the entrance shooing people away. We stuck around long enough for them to leave but we still weren’t able to go in far enough to see anything worth while.
Being that we had a full day, we decided to pack it in and head home. We walked to a nearby bus stop and took a bus that took us to a train that brought us to our station. There we went back to the apartment where I ate my leftover breakfast and, after realizing that we DID in fact have Wi-Fi, posted the blogs from the past two days as well as today’s post.