Today, we’re in Arashiyama (嵐山), a quiet, touristy district on the western outskirts of the city.
When I say “touristy” though, I don’t mean American; we have yet to encounter many English-speaking tourists on our trip – if any at all.
After an indulgent breakfast of kaiseki ryori (lol–white rice) in the morning, we set out for a jam-packed day of culture and sightseeing from sun-up to sundown.
We left our ryokan and headed out over the Togetsukyo Bridge – one of the city’s most well-known landmarks, where we were began hiking the Arashiyama mountains to Iwatayama Monkey Park.
After a 30-minute climb – during which animals were literally running alongside us – we stumbled out into an open area where hundreds of Japanese macaque monkeys were roaming freely. I remember thinking that this type of tourist destination that would never be legal in the United States.
We sat for an hour, watching them play and bathe one another. I welcomed the ass-on-bench time, as I was exhausted from our first real form of physical activity in quite some time. Plus, we were able to take in the stunning panoramic views of Kyoto.
To get down the mountain, you had to take a mini-slide — and, well, I’ll let this super-short video put into context what happened next.
… My mother always said she should’ve named me Grace.
After cleaning the dirt off my clothes and ridding our stomachs of laughing cramps, we continued our walking tour of Kyoto. We ended up strolling the Zen gardens of the Tenryuji Temple and getting ourselves lost deep in Arashiyama’s famous Bamboo Grove – a beautifully serene forest of sky-high bamboo stalks.
By mid-afternoon, we were freezing (it was 40 degrees in Japan) and starved for something other than bites of raw fish. Despite the entire town shutting down around 4 p.m., we lucked out and stumbled on an udon restaurant, where we happily slurped beef tenderloin, hot tea and noodles.