A Fall Trip to Arashiyama, Kyoto

I am not wont to visit overly populated and popular cities. I can’t shake off the feeling that I am doing something wrong when visiting such places. One might think that since we live in a global world, there can’t be anything wrong with traveling to famous places. But my trips there often result in guilt and regret—as if I did a disservice to the world or caused suffering to it. I felt this way when I visited Barcelona and Florence a decade ago, so the feeling is perpetual. 

Besides, some renowned places rub me off the wrong way—such as Kyoto. I am not a big fan of Kyoto City, even after having visited it many times. It is funny because going to Kyoto was my childhood dream. Like many foreigners, I felt gravitated toward Kyoto and found myself wanting to visit it one day. Now I think Kyoto is like the spoiled son of Japan; everyone showers him with compliments and gifts while the neglected daughters watch him from afar, waiting for the day people will deign to acknowledge them. 

The Kimono Forest of Arashiyama

I know I sound fretful, so you may wonder what kind of demon woke me up at 5 a.m. and sent me to Arashiyama on November 10. I simply wondered what Arashiyama, a district in the west of Kyoto, looked like after Japan reopened its borders last month. Well, people picked up fast where they left off, and started living as if the pandemic had never happened. In other news, the water is wet.

It took me a couple of hours to adjust to the crowds, and the voice in my head that could set off in trepidation any time quieted down. When it was over, I found myself engrossed in my surroundings and watched my reluctance slowly turn into enthusiasm, which gave birth to this post. 

Strolling along the Katsura River

Enjoying my morning coffee by the Katsura River

I sat on the wall that separated the river and the main street and watched the mountains glowing with the fall colors. I had been to Arashiyama during the pandemic, which was depressing because there were few people along the Katsura River. It seemed that, as if to overcompensate for the lack of people for two years, Arashiyama hosted as many people as it could this time. 

Since the weather was pleasant, I decided to stroll along the river and quickly regretted wearing a wool sweater. I need to learn the intricacies of traveling during fall! I didn’t row a boat on the river, but watching some people doing it, and enjoying themselves, put a smile on my face. Arashiyama came alive with each moment of laughter it received from people. So did I.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The bamboo in Arashiyama are some of the most photographed subjects in Japan. I get it. I love bamboo trees, regardless of their plain look. There is a lot to learn from bamboo, and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a great place to contemplate how to be like bamboo. They grow slowly with adequate care, just like our habits. They are flexible but can’t be bent easily. 

Thanks to the bamboo trees, you feel cool even in the hottest weather. While walking in the shadows, you forget for a moment what is happening in the outside world. Interestingly, you don’t hear the hustle and bustle of Arashiyama, despite its vicinity to the grove. And people look tiny under the tall bamboo, giving the place an otherworldly aura. 

I remembered the famous “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” during my walk among the bamboo. It’s a great story about a farmer and his wife finding a miniature girl inside a bamboo stalk, and raising her as their daughter. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove leaves room for imagination for people of all ages.

Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama

I concluded my journey at the summit of Arashiyama Monkey Park. I had never been there before, so it seemed only right to visit this time. I started at the bottom of Mt. Iwata and hiked for 20 minutes to reach the top. The hike was easy, and there were benches on the path. The monkeys started appearing before the summit, swinging in the trees. 

Snow monkeys, aka Japanese macaque, are wild, so people shouldn’t touch or go near them. Visitors are allowed to feed them inside what seems to be a “human cage.” You can also view Arashiyama from the top, and take photos of monkeys that freely traverse the building and summit. Interacting with monkeys and observing them was an intriguing experience. Children around me had a blast feeding and watching them. 

You can feed monkeys here!

You can also view Arashiyama from the top!

While feeding the monkeys pieces of fresh melon, I remembered how my mother felt about the creatures. She doesn’t like them because she thinks they behave like people. I know it’s their world, but I was sad to see adult monkeys snatching baby monkeys’ food. I had a similar experience once in Sayo, Hyogo. The monkeys can be aggressive and unpredictable. They really aren’t pet material!

Trust me, they aren’t pet material!

Okay, maybe this little one is an exception!

Overall, the journey was peaceful and memorable. I enjoyed snapping some photos and taking my time to let my experiences sink in. Arashiyama also made me realize that the places we visit, whether popular or not, are as meaningful as what they make us feel. The next time I go sightseeing, I will ask myself what this place might contribute to my life—not how popular it is.

What about you? Do you like popular places? How do you feel when you visit them? 

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  1. Monch Weller

    Nice to read about your visit to Arabica over there? How was the coffee, if I may ask?

    There used to be branches of that coffee shop here in Manila, but all of them suddenly closed. I unfortunately was unable to visit the shop nearest to me while it was still open, though. 😦 I’ve heard rumors of an eventual reopening, though that will take long.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      The coffee was superb! I enjoyed every sip of my cup and went back for a second one 😂 I don’t know what their Manila branch would be like, but the Arashiyama branch serves scrumptious coffee!

      P.S: I do miss Manila and wonder what it would be like to eat there again. I’ve been craving sinigang recently!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Monch Weller

        I see; now that makes me more excited for its reopening! 😆

        I do hope you can return soon!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. kagould17

    Looks like you found a beautiful walk away from the tourist part of Kyoto. We do love Kyoto, but, not just the touristy parts. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Hi Allan,

      Thank you for your comment 🙏 I also love the other parts of Kyoto, especially The Sea of Japan coasts 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Shahbaz Ashraf

    Hi Bahanur, why are you conscious of visiting famous or overly populated cities? Why is there a sense of guilt of doing something wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Good question! I think it has something to do with environmental issues. When I visit popular places, I can’t help but notice the garbage problem or noise pollution 😢

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Shahbaz Ashraf

    While asking this question, exactly the same thought came to my mind.
    The environmental issue is becoming a genuine problem for all the tourist resorts. We find heaps of garbage here and there and people don’t appear to mind it at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      It breaks my heart to hear that your home country suffers from the same problem 😞 Let’s hope people will become more careful about their actions and how they impact the world before it’s too late.


  5. kegarland

    I actually didn’t like Japan that much when I visited, but I really enjoyed Kyoto! I wish I would’ve known about %…it sounds like a place a coffee lover should experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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