So you want to see the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, the Monkey Park and see the sun set over Kyoto all in one day? If you’re prepared to do a lot of walking up steep inclines and are equipped with a good night’s sleep then it is possible! So grab yourself a Pocari Sweat and let’s start!
You’re up to your second bottle of Pocari Sweat. You think to yourself, is this actually made out of sweat? Maybe it’s just because your body is starting to represent the name of this Japanese beverage. Your lips quiver as you bring the bottle to your lips. STOP. WAIT. You better save that drink. The walk to the Monkey Park Iwatayama is quite the trek. With a steep incline for the majority of the journey up to the monkey park, the intensity of the climb had my girlfriend shouting out “flat ground!” every time we came to a patch of flat ground in the journey. We actually had to take a break at some seats half-way through the journey because it was that tiring! But hey, if my 50-something year-old parents suffering from arthritis can do the trip up the mountain, I’m pretty sure you can too.
To get to the Monkey Park Iwatayama from the bamboo forest, make your way back towards Saga Arashiyama station. Eventually you’ll come across the main shopping strip of Arashiyama, you’ll notice it because there will be a lot of green tea products for sale along it – this street is also home to Tenryuji temple regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk down towards Togetsukyo Bridge at the end of the road where you can see a lot of girls dressed up in kimonos crossing the bridge. This is the easy way of course if you don’t want to get lost. For the more adventurous, I recommend following the bamboo forest path all the way to the end and climb some stairs down to the Hozu River. This will lead you to a traditional Japanese restaurant and some vending machines for all you thirsty weeaboos. Follow the Hozu River to the bridge and make your way down to the Monkey Park where you can buy your ticket and start your ascent.
After our one or two hour hike up the mountain (I don’t know, we were pretty exhausted) we saw our first monkey! It still amazes me how well the Japanese and animals get along together. I was talking with the owner of the monkey park and he was telling me about how he has names for all the monkeys and treats them like his children. Then he showed me some recently born baby monkeys. They were absolutely adorable. You can also buy a bag of peanuts to feed the monkeys.
There was this one baby monkey we kept on trying to feed, but the larger ones attacked it if it got close to us. Eventually my mother managed to get a sneaky peanut over to the baby. The look he gave us when he got his/her peanut was priceless!
The view over Kyoto was also worth the climb. Excellent for panoramas. It started snowing on our way down from the monkey park. There’s also a children’s playground next to the park where my cousin Stephanie tried sliding down a slide only to slip off at the end and bruise her ass. Don’t go down slides when it’s snowing, folks. My favourite part though was being on the train and watching the rays of light peek through the clouds.