Today was a slower start, the kids needed a little down time. It was also a chance to give them some favourite breakfast foods as we have a kitchen here – pasta for Matt and cheese on toast for Anna. We headed off mid-morning in the pouring rain, our second duck day in a row. Apparently a tropical cyclone has headed up from the Philippines to drench us. But like good locals we packed the umbrellas and didn’t change our plans.
We headed to Western Kyoto to Arashiyama by bus and then train. This is another seriously popular tourist spot and home to a number of sights. On our hit list today were a monkey park and a bamboo forest. This was the most challenging place yet for our umbrella dodgems game. We crossed the famous Togetsukyo Bridge towards the Iwatayama Monkey Park. The monkey park is located about 20 minutes walk up a hillside, so we decided to stock up on food before climbing. Choices were limited at the base of the track, but we found a place with a few recognisable dishes. Full of noodles and chicken, we puddled up the trail.
There are about 130 Japanese Macaques living in the park. These are the same breed as the snow monkeys, but no onsen for this lot. I think they were wishing for onsen, they clearly didn’t like the rain. The only inside place at the park is guarded as the monkeys know how to open the door. The building is a cage, but it’s for the humans not the monkeys – they go inside to feed the monkeys who hang off the bars from the outside. The kids had great fun feeding peanuts and apple to the monkeys, although Matt complained that some of them had sharp fingernails! It wasn’t as entertaining as the snow monkeys, but monkeys are always fun and it was well worth the climb.
Our next stop was the Arashiyama bamboo forest. All the guidebooks recommended visiting early or late to avoid crazy crowds, but this just wasn’t practical. So we braved the hoardes and dodgemed through the forecast. Along with all the people and umbrellas, we also had to avoid rickshaws, cars and even trains. It wasn’t exactly a quiet stroll through a bamboo forest, but still am impressive sight. No sign of any pandas, they must have been frightened by all the tourists.
We waded back to the station (by this time our shoes were like wet sponges…) and caught the train back to Kyoto. We took a bit of time to explore the amazing Kyoto station, and stumbled on a pretty delicious looking waffle place. We couldn’t resist and treated ourselves. It gave Matt the energy to face the shoe shop – his one pair of sneakers have walked too many miles and were on their last legs. Off we went to ABC Mart, a great place to find new sports shoes. The shop assistant was really confused when I said he needed socks to try on shoes, but the ones he was wearing were soaked. After lots of laughing and charades, we left the store with wet socks and shoes in a bag and both kids wearing new dry socks and shoes (Anna just couldn’t resist one more bargain pair of Converse shoes).
Back to the station, we made our way to “Katsukura” on the 11th floor. This involved riding numerous escalators and crossing a Skybridge, passing lots of coloured lights. Katsukura was highly recommended for it’s Tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets) and there had been a Tonkatsu drought since our three Buna Restaurant lunches on the mountain. Even before 6pm, we had to queue for a table. It was well worth the wait, the meals were delicious. We were given a mortar and pestle each to grind our own sesame seeds (amazing smell) which we then mixed with various yummy sauces. The meal came with unlimited refills of rice and cabbage, but the initial mound of cabbage was huge. There was a special sauce just for the cabbage and it transformed it into something delicious, but there is a limit to how much cabbage you can (and should!) eat so still no need for refills.
The boys headed back to to the house while the girls sneaked a bit more time in the shops. Anna was keen for a 100 yen store – we added a lot of steps but never did find one. Sadly tomorrow is our last full day in a Japan. The kids have convinced us that it should be spent at a theme park some distance from here so we are off on another Shinkansen in the morning.