Japan Chronicles: Temples, Monkeys, and Bamboo Forests

I don’t know if it was the excitement of being in Kyoto, the fact that I was extremely well rested, or that I finally figured out much of the bus system, but I was ALL OVER THE PLACE today. I even willingly got up before 8 am, and yall know how I feel about my beauty sleep.

After a quick stop at a bakery near my hostel (which was bomb.com, by the way), I headed to Toji Temple, which was about a 15 – 20 minute walk from where I was staying. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to Japan’s tallest stone pagoda at 57 metes tall (the second tallest is in Nara). Since it was early in the day, there weren’t that many tourists but the middle school students were definitely out in full effect. I explored some of the main halls of Toji, like Kondo Hall, which is the largest building at the temple and home to a large wooden Buddha statue, and Kodo Hall, which houses 19 Buddha statues. Taking pictures inside of the halls is prohibited, so I was only able to take pictures of the grounds and the pagoda.

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Next, I walked to Kyoto station, and hopped on a bus headed for Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. This beautiful Zen temple overlooks a huge pond and is truly a sight to see. Once you see the temple (and take your obligatory selfies of course LOL) you can take a peek in what used to be the living quarters of the head priest. Unfortunately, a peek is all you’ll get because it’s not open to the public. Then, you can view the Sekkatai Teahouse on your way to the exit. There’s a small tea garden as well, but I didn’t go in. You’ll also pass Fudo Hall, which has a small Buddha statue inside.

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Head Priest's living quarters Head Priest’s living quarters

A look inside of the Tea House

A look inside of the Tea House

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Fudo Hall

Then, I hopped on the bus and went to Ryoanji Temple, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Honestly, you could just walk there but I had an all day bus pass and the bus was scheduled to come soon anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal. Anywhoo, Ryoanji is another Zen temple in the area, and is well known for its Rock Garden, which was designed so that whatever angle you look at the garden, there will always be one rock that is out of sight. Pretty cool, right?

Beautiful pond

Kyoyochi Pond on the temple grounds

Rock Garden

Rock Garden

A look in the head priest's living quarters, which overlook the Rock Garden

A look in the head priest’s residence, also known as Hojo, which overlooks the Rock Garden

My next stop was Ninnaji Temple, which was also another short bus ride away. This temple is well-known for the Goten, which is the area where the former head priest used to live. This area has many beautifully painted rooms, as well as both a rock garden and a pond garden. I didn’t stay here that long, but it was a nice stop before I headed to my next destination.
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Once I was done exploring this temple, I walked to the Randen Tram to go to Arashiyama. It’s different from the JR train, as it’s only one car that runs along a narrow rail through the local area. It was about a 20 minute ride to Arashiyama, including one transfer.

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Arashiyama was definitely one of my favorite places to visit. There were so many things to see here that I could have easily spent the whole day there. I was really focused on hitting the famous Bamboo Forest in the area, but once I got to the famous Togetsukyo Bridge, I decided to do a little exploring first.

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Togetsukyo Bridge

I crossed the bridge and ended up seeing a sign for the Arashiyama Monkey Park. I hadn’t planned on going to this park and I didn’t even know it was there, but I had time and I did want to see some monkeys, so I decided to head in. I’m so glad I did!! I’m not going to lie, I was a little wary, especially when I kept seeing all the warnings and the rules of the park posted everywhere. The three rules of the park, which are posted everywhere, are:

  • Rule 1: Don’t stare into the monkeys’ eyes. They consider it as a sign of a threat and some of them become aggressive.
  • Rule 2: Don’t touch the monkeys. Like other wild animals, the monkeys hate being touched and it makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Rule 3. Don’t feed them outside the hut surrounded by a wire netting. This is for safety reasons so they won’t jump on you and try to get at the food.

I was thinking, Mimi, what the hell did you get yourself into?? But I put on my big girl pants and went in anyway. Once you enter the park, you have to walk up a mountain for about 20 minutes or so. At the top, which is the feeding site, you can see monkeys freely roaming around and interacting with visitors. There are about 120 wild Japanese macaque that roam the area during the daytime, but after the park closes they leave the feeding site and go back on the mountain. I  absolutely loved the Monkey Park!!

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View from the top of the mountain in Monkey Park

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Feeling salty because this monkey acted like he had better things to do than take a picture with me LOL

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Success with Monkey #2!!

In order to feed the monkeys, you have to go inside of a hut and buy food. The monkeys can climb on the outside of the building and you can feed them through the bars. This is just a safety measure so that the monkeys don’t gang up on you and attack when they realize that you have food.

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After the Monkey Park, I went to find the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. One of the easiest ways to get to the forest is to go through Tenryuji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most important temple in the district of Arashiyama. The garden at this temple is absolutely beautiful, and is one of the oldest gardens in Japan. The garden still remains in its original form and wasn’t damaged during fires and wars throughout the centuries like many other buildings in this temple.

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Kuri Building

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The fish were huge!

Once you exit out of the North Gate and make a left, you end up at the grove. Honestly, it was sooo amazing! Pictures don’t do it justice! The tall bamboo trees give the area a weird lighting, but I still tried to take some pics. If you’re ever in Kyoto, you definitely need to put this on your list!
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After reaching one end of the Bamboo Forest, I made a U-turn and walked back down towards Nonomiya-jinja Shrine, where many people go to pray for love. Safe to say, there were lots of women there LOL.

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After all of this, I was exhausted!! I still had to go back to my hostel, get my bags (I’d checked out in the morning) and head to my new hostel in the Gion area of Kyoto, a more central part of Kyoto. Once I settled into my new place, I took a nap passed out! Here’s to another great day in Kyoto!

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7 thoughts on “Japan Chronicles: Temples, Monkeys, and Bamboo Forests

  1. Tabitha says:

    I agree with you about Arashiyama. Hands down, it was my favorite area and actually I did spend an entire day there. Did you eat the soy ice cream? It is a specialty there. I don’t if it was because I was pregnant or what, but that ice cream was divine to me. I ate my fair share of it. LOL!!

    Like

    • Mimi_90 says:

      I didn’t!! I wish I would’ve known, I would have definitely gave it a try! I did, however, go to Uji (also known as the city of tea). Best green tea ice cream and pancakes!! And that’s saying something, because I found the green tea ice cream in Kyoto disgusting

      Liked by 1 person

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