Guide to Japan: Kyoto Part 2

It’s 9:30am and our hungry stomachs lead us to Paul bakery in the Daimaru Department store in downtown Kyoto. One minute prior to the store opening, a gussied up man in a bellman uniform and a woman looking like a classy flight attendant open the doors with great pomp and circumstance. The woman gives a speech that involves 10 bows and several hand gestures. Unsure if we are witnessing a daily door opening ceremony at Daimaru, or something more special, we buzz past them as their theatrics conclude and head down to the bakery where we order cappuccinos and pastries. As we’re served, we spot another huge to-go bakery at the kiosk next door. Of course we check it out after plowing through our pain au chocolat. The bread and pastries look divine. Shelves upon shelves of golden, flaky carbs. I gaze longingly at a french toast thing with a literal syringe of maple syrup perched in the top. We buy a chocolate muffin and a french toast slice for later.

We take the train to Arashiyama, a western district of Kyoto. It’s a beautiful area surrounded by mountains and trees.
The Togetsukyo Bridge, built during the Heian Period (old!), crosses a large river. I imagine the colors in fall are divine! First stop is the Arashiyama monkey park. We climb a set of rock stairs and then a hiking trail through a densely wooded forest to get to the top of the mountain, where all the monkeys are.
The higher we climb, the harder it rains until 20 minutes and several stories later we are at the top. Feet muddy, pants soaked. Despite that, the peak provides a beautiful view of Kyoto (I know, the picture makes it seem like it’s shrouded in fog!).
We spot our first monkeys hanging out near a warming hut. The monkeys aren’t allowed inside the hut, but the hut has a wire fence wrapped around it that allows us to feed them peanuts and fruit from the inside. They hang on the fence and reach right into our hands for food. So friendly and cute!
Outside, we walk further along a path and spot more monkeys hanging out in trees and seeking shelter from the rain under bushes.

After snapping a bazillion pics, we cautiously make our way down the mountain along a path that is slick and muddy. Thank God for handrails! We cross the Togetsukyo Bridge. The view is stunning, but the rain and wind are so harsh we can’t take it in for too long. We head towards a more touristy area with cute shops and brown and white buildings with Spanish-style roofs. On we trek to the Tenryuji Temple.

Although we don’t enter the temple itself, we walk around its gardens which are beautiful. We follow trails that lead us up a hill and provide a pretty view of the temple and the large pond below. 

We would’ve liked to have spent more time enjoying the gardens but it’s raining too hard and pretty miserable to sit outside.

Next to Tenryuji is the entrance to the bamboo forest. A single path weaves into the green forest, so dense we can barely feel the rain. The surrounding foliage and sheer enormity of it all is very cool.

The path eventually spits us out towards the touristy area we had seen before. We duck into some stores selling furoshikis and other crafts. I buy two small clay dishes handmade by locals. We sample green tea flavored cookies, peanuts, and more delicious Yatsuhashi–our favorites still strawberry and cinnamon. After 30 minutes of walking around our toes are too wet for much more. We board a small train and head back to Kyoto. The ride takes 30 minutes, but at least there’s heat! Back at the hotel we go to our respective locker rooms and hit the baths to thaw out. I enjoy a soak with a great view of Kyoto Tower. Just what we need after a wet day sightseeing!

Dinner is at Chao Chao, a gyoza restaurant. We have 6:30pm reservations so we catch a bus that (so typically) doesn’t take us anywhere near the place. With just 10 minutes to spare, we run through the rain to the nearest subway so as not to commit the biggest Japanese faux pas– being late! Upon approach, the tiny restaurant has a huge line. But two bar seats are miraculously reserved for us despite our mild tardiness. The place is the size of a postage stamp; dimly lit with a staff of 6 crammed behind a bar dancing around 8 scorching dumpling steamers. We try pork, mushroom, shrimp, and green onion gyoza, and chicken meatball dumplings. Dessert is chocolate-filled gyoza with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The next day our grand plans of visiting Kyomizu-dera are foiled by sore legs. Instead spend our morning eating a nice American breakfast at a place called Eggs n Things. The “things” are great, but the eggs…not so much. The veggie omelet is so disgusting I can barely stomach it. Luckily Ian has chocolate chip pancakes and I have an acai bowl. We very much enjoy the coconut syrup they serve.

After checking out of our hotel, we leave for Kyoto station and head back to Tokyo on the Shinkansen. When I open Google Maps, this shows up on my phone. ❤

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