On our second day in Kyoto began with a breakfast
in the cafe next to the hostel, bacon and cheese on toast. Pretty good. Pretty cheap.
We had an action packed day planned. We headed south to the Fushimi-Inari Shrine which is somewhere you have to visit if you go to Kyoto. It’s a beautiful shrine famous for the miles of torii gates that weave in, out and around the shrine buildings. It feels like a magical place, especially when the sunlight slices through each gate and the surrounding trees. Here are a bunch of photos:
The photos give you an idea what it’s like but really you have to go there and walk through the paths. There are so many shrines in this complex, tiny ones and the major central ones. There are handy vending machines throughout, so you won’t get thirsty. You could play an incredible, potentially unending, game of hide and seek here.
After wandering around for hours we looked for a Zen garden that my friend in Tokyo had insisted we visit. She had visited it with her dad a week before while they were evacuated from Tokyo. She said that you pay a small entrance fee (I think about Y300), take off your shoes and walk around a building with 4 stone gardens surrounding it. She said when they went, they took their shoes off and it started snowing and it was magical.
Well, after I nearly broke into some private property thinking it was the entrance, we eventually found the place. It was the Tofukuji temple.
It was a beautiful sunny day so if it started snowing when we were in there I would be suspicious that they had a snow machine. We paid for our tickets, left our shoes in the shoe shelf and walked in. No snow. What a rip off. Still, it was properly Zen. There were one or two businessy looking people who had brought a packed lunch and were sitting looking out over the gardens, silently eating. The gardens were designed in the 1930’s and have remained the same ever since. It was one of the quietest, calmest places I’ve been.
We then headed north to Arashiyama Park.
It’s a beautiful area of Kyoto with a mountain you can pay to go up where there are loads of monkeys. It costs about Y500 and there are monkeys all over the mountain and signs everywhere that say things like “DO NOT STARE AT THE MONKEYS IN THE EYE” which makes the hike up to the top quite terrifying. At the top of the mountain there’s a shed/cage where the humans go inside, buy monkey snacks and you can feed them through the mesh. It is excellent.
Though the bigger monkeys push the smaller ones out of the way, so I deliberately made an effort to get the snacks to the little monkeys and a bigger one looked at me with such an astonished look, like HOW DARE I, that it makes me laugh to remember it.
The view at the top is pretty spectacular, you can look over all of Kyoto. An added bonus is the monkeys playing with the telescopes, looking like monkey tourists.
Back at the base of the mountain is a wealth of prettiness.
A wide river populated with traditional boats you can get boat tours in, cherry blossoms everywhere – it looks like a postcard. We strolled around this lovely area but as it was dusk things were closing up. There’s a lot to see here that we didn’t have time to, like bamboo groves, a preserved street of houses from the Meiji period, fishing trips and, as with everywhere in Japan, approximately a metric fuckton of temples.