Don't look the monkey in the eye!
Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
101Trip End Ongoing
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Given that Japan was so expensive we had been creative with our accommodation and here we had booked a self catering apartment. Little did we realise what a treat this was going to be. Just 10 minutes from the train station, overlooking one of the most prominent 5 tier pagodas in Kyoto and best of all we had our very own kitchen and washing machine! It is unbelievable how having your very own washing machine is such a treat, I was like a kid in a sweet shop and washed every item of clothing we owned, even the clothes I had lovingly hand washed only days earlier! One odd thing about this apartment is that whilst we had a kitchen and a kettle, we had no pans, plates or cutlery
So our first outing in Kyoto was to Arashiyama, this a sleepy little town 30 minutes from Kyoto, this quaint little town with a river and tree covered mountains had temples and man powered rickshaws and had the same feel as Yangshuo in China, it even has the same cormorant fisherman in the summer. Our reason for visiting Arashiyama was for the Monkey Park. Never one to miss out on an animal encounter this sounded too good to be true. We made our way through the town and we seemed to be the only tourists not heading to the temple. I knew the monkey park was up a hill as it offers amazing views over Kyoto but I didn’t realise quite how much of a hill. 160 meters above sea level to be precise, but 30 minutes of switchbacks and steps through jungle paths led us there. As we reached the summit I began to wonder if this was such a good idea. All the way up there are signs telling you not to look the monkeys in the eye
Our next outing we decided to opt for a tour to get as many sights in as possible, so we would spend the morning doing the main attractions in Kyoto and the afternoon we would visit the nearby town of Nara
We had a stop for lunch and finally got to try some of the food that we have been looking at in the windows of all the Japanese restaurants and boy are we pleased we got this for free and didn’t spend £20 trying it out
So for the afternoon we were off to visit Nara, the home of the Todai-ji Temple, this is the largest wooden structure in the world and it is the home to the biggest cast broze Buddha in the world. At 48.9ft tall he is some Buddha. On new years day the windows in the front of the building are opened so Buddha can look out, which is quite cool. This temple had a great feel to it, with incense and candles burning it reignited our joy of temples (for a while anyway). However as cool as the Buddha and big wooden building were this was not our main reason for coming to Nara. Nara is a town over run with over 1,200 little deers called Sika Deer. The deer are very tame and were considered divine and sacred, but after WWII their status was reduced to Nation Treasure! So in the park outside the Big Buddha there are rows of food stalls, not selling food for tourists but selling deer biscuits. This was a no brainer why would we possibly not spend £1 to feed these amazing animals. They were so tame that you could stroke them and take photos and they were more than happy. How things change when you introduce deer biscuits into the equation. I foolishly went full speed ahead and bought two packets, one for Tim and one for me. Next thing I am surrounded by a heard of small deer all waiting for a biscuit. I say waiting, it was more like stalking and nuzzling until I threw them. Tim was laughing from a distance telling me to put them in my pocket, my fear was that the deer would follow them into my pocket so the greedy ones closest to me got all my biscuits. Once free I finally managed to get Tim his packet of biscuits, not it was my turn to stand on the side lines laughing as he is over run by tiny deers. His genius idea of putting the biscuits in his pocket was brilliant and left him smeared in deer snot as they tried to nuzzle their way into his pocket, heh heh heh
Our final outing in Kyoto was to Gion, this is the most exclusive Geisha district in Japan, although here they call themselves Geiko which means a woman of the arts. There are now only around 2,000 practicing Geiko in Japan. Geisha have been associated with prostitution, but this is not the case in Gion, they perform music, singing or dancing during tea ceremonies. We didn’t know how to go about having a tea ceremony and very much doubted that we would be able to afford one so instead we took to 'Geiko Hunting’ we basically walked up and down the street of tea rooms in the hope of getting a glimpse. Having done our homework we knew that between 4pm and 6pm was a good spotting time as it is end of shift and true enough we got a few glimpses of geiko’s hopping out of and into taxi’s. Once we got our senses honed we worked out that a taxi pulled up outside a tea room meant Geiko collection, so Tim got a spot right behind the taxi and waited, ad waited and waited. Annoyingly the Geiko took so long by the time they emerged for their taxi a massive crowd had formed, but we still got a glimpse and a photo or two. It was a bit like being a wildlife photographer waiting for them to emerge, I got so star struck when one popped out in front of me I forgot how to work my camera and just stared in awe. It is quite cool to have seen them up close even if we did feel a bit like stalkers!
Sadly that’s Kyoto done and I have to leave my kitchen and washing machine and get on the Bullet train to Hiroshima.
Remember – Don’t look the monkey in the eye!