Oct. 23rd, 2014

gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)

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gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)

I went out early yesterday and shot some sights of the neighborhood, including the little temple on the other side of the alley wall, and the little stream that runs under Sanjo-dori on the way to the subway.

If you take the Tozei line as far west as it goes, you can pick up the Randen tram line, which wends its way through the suburbs towards Arashiyama. In a concession to the fact that not every day needs to be shrinetempleshrinetemplemuseum, we hit the Toei Studios theme park, where I came to the conclusion that I am too damn old and cranky to be a ninja. Seriously: the guides through the Ninja Mystery House were about as threatening as Mousketeers as they encouraged us in chirpy, rapidfire Japanese (with Josh translating), to find all the secret passages through the house. Cheesy, commercial, and happy to take your yen for refreshments and souvenirs, but they do still shoot movies and tv shows in parts of the park and there was a section cordoned off with a shoot going on while we were there. And that's cheesy in a good way. http://www.toei-eigamura.com/en/

We hopped back on the Randen and took it to the end of the line in beautiful Arashiyama. (Storm Mountain), along the Oi River. You exit the tram into the prettiest transit station ever, decorated with a "kimono forest" of beautifully patterned tubes that light at night, and lined with neat little shops selling sweets and snacks. A tourist destination since the Heian period, the Oi river valley is surrounded on all sides by wooded mountains just starting to get their fall color.

As you exit the station through crowds of holiday goers, you will be frequently greeted by photogenic men in skintight shirts, short shorts and tabi waving brochures with big smiles, inviting you to see Arashiyama by rickshaw. The occupation necessitates fitness and I saw these guys loping up and down the street with passengers all day. (Rent or stream "The Rickshaw Man" with Toshiro Mifune some time! It's a charmer.)

We found a place by the Togetsukyo Bridge for lunch. Mine was paper thin slices of white pork and a raw egg in broth with tender soba noodles. Stir the egg into the broth and it gets very rich and hearty. Washed down with a small glass of Asahi Super Dry.

That set us up well for the next adventure. We took a trail up past a little Shinto shrine guarded by a handsome bobtail cat and up to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. The semi-paved trail climbs 160 meters (about 525 feet) through the trees. Just when you need to catch your breath, there is an inevitable Monkey Quiz signboard with questions about the life and habits of the Japanese macaques that live on the mountainside. There's a troop of about 130 or so of these beautiful animals, all given individual names by the park staff, and they are quite fearless about sharing the mountain with tourists. When you reach the top of the hill, you are rewarded with a sweeping view of Kyoto spread out to the east. Attendants were breaking up aggressive monkey squalls, from time to time, it being breeding season right now.  You can enter the hut and buy 100 yen bags of peanuts or apple chunks and feed the monkeys from inside. This works brilliantly - the monkeys know to expect food from people inside the wire. Since they don't get handouts from visitors outside the hut, they know not to accost  you there.

I developed a two-handed feeding strategy so I could assuage more aggressive, larger monkeys while still getting pieces of apple into the hands of the littler ones. And I have to confess I felt a thrill as those little hands took apples from my palm. It's hard to describe.

Fortified by cooling breezes on the hike back down, and a cone of soft serve ice cream ("softu" is a big thing here and so far I've had green tea, hochicha (roasted brown tea) and mango flavors), we crossed the river to climb to a lovely spot overlooking the Oi river gorge, wended our way through an impressive and beautiful bamboo grove, then finished up with the lovely gardens at Tenryuji.

We split up to browse some of the shops (I was good and only bought post-cards), then met back in front of the Randen station to use the foot spa. This is a real thing! You pay 200 yen for a towel at the information center, then walk along the tram platform until you get to a communal pool where you can soak your tired feet in soothingly hot water. http://kyoto.traveler-s.net/items/176

Dinner at "Randon" above the station, a donburi place (stuff over rice). Mine was salmon sashimi, salmon roe, nori and some sort of green, clovery looking plant. Yum.

Then back to Kyoto by Randen, subway and our tired feet.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/70104978@N00/sets/72157648925741001/



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