Japan Take Two: Rainy Day in Kyoto

by - Friday, March 23, 2018

We only had one day of rain on our entire trip, but unfortunately it fell during one of our days in Kyoto. In comparison to Tokyo, Kyoto is a very sleepy city. It's also very spread out and almost everything to do is outside.

We tried to shuffle our plans a bit to hit the things that were quasi-inside or required public transportation rather than walking to reach.

But the rain still definitely made the day not super pleasant. Even with umbrellas and raincoats, our socks and shoes got soggy fast.

We started the morning out in Arashiyama, the western part of the city, at the Iwatayama Monkey Park.

Feeding the fat monkey

Mt. Arashiyama is home to hundreds of monkeys and visitors can hike up the mountain to hang out with them and feed them. Fair warning to others who want to do this, the hike up the mountain is definitely steep at parts and it's a good 15-20 minute walk. Other than being a little slippery because of the rain, it was fine for us, but for folks with kids, you may need to set aside a bit of extra time to actually make it to the monkeys.

It wasn't super packed when we were there, which was kind of nice, because it meant there were plenty of monkeys for us to feed and we weren't waiting in line behind a bunch of other people.

Baby monkey taking some food

In order for humans to feed the monkeys, the humans have to go into this caged in room. Yes you read that right. The monkeys get to stay out in the wild and the humans go into a cage and hand out the food from there.

The shack where the humans go

It's pretty funny, and when we were there, we were cracking up at the personalities of some of the monkeys.

This one for example was a fat and greedy. He kept stealing food out of the hands of the baby monkeys and then would eat his food with one hand, while shoving the other hand through the fence to demand more food from you.

So greedy

Demanding more food

His constant expression was basically, "Hellllllo, I'm waiting."

Some of the babies were cute and eager to try to take the food out of your hand before a bigger monkey came along.

The big one eyeing the food the little one is getting

Cute little monkey

And we got to witness a bit of a monkey fight at the end when two monkeys were going for the same piece of food. Shrieking and other hysterics ensued.

When our little bags of food ran out, we stuck around for a bit hanging out with the monkeys outside and enjoying some of the views of Kyoto from the mountain.

Panoramic view from the monkey park

For the moment the rain had stopped, and I was hopeful that maybe we'd get lucky the rest of the day.

We set off from the mountain to go visit the Bamboo Forest. It was only a short walk from the monkey park, but by the time we got there the rain had really picked up again, so we didn't spend very long wandering through it.

Bamboo forest in Kyoto
And apparently I only took this one crappy picture.

We made our way back to the train station in hopes that the rain would let up before our next stop.

After a train and bus ride later, we arrived at Kinkakuji, sometimes better known as the Golden Pavilion. This temple was the retirement villa of a shogun and is obviously a little ostentatious and over the top.

Close up

It was sort of cool to see the pavilion up close, but overall we were disappointed in this stop. The Golden Pavilion gets a ton of hype as one of the top tourists attractions and a must-see in Kyoto. But you can't go in the pavilion. So you get to see it from across the pond and then walk through the gardens and then you're done.

In front of the Golden Pavilion

Maybe we were just cranky and maybe the weather was impacting our opinion of it, but for as out of the way as Kinkakuji is we definitely didn't think it was worth it.

Another bus and train ride later, we made our way to Nijo Castle. We'd had this tentatively penciled in and figured if we weren't super tired or sick of the rain, we'd do it.

This was one of those things I'm glad we did. This old castle is really cool to walk through. It was the home and office of the first shogun. So we got to walk through and see rooms where the shogun would have held meetings and where he would have slept and ate. The floorboards were made to creak when you walk over them as early warning signs of traitors entering the building.

Entrance to Nijo Castle

There are also some pretty gardens that are part of the castle grounds, but since there wasn't much in bloom, we didn't spend too much time exploring those.

View of the interior mote at Nijo Castle

Our last adventure of the day was checking out some Japanese onsen. Bathing in hot springs is a huge part of Japanese culture and it's not something I got to experience the last time I was there. I'll be honest, I was a little skittish at first, since you are basically hanging out in a hot tub naked with a bunch of strangers. Don't worry, onsen are pretty much all single-sex, but it's still admittedly a bit weird at first.

But after a while, you kind of forget that everyone is naked and it's just a super relaxing thing to do. The place we were staying had an open air onsen that was lined with stones and full of piping hot water. At the time I went, there wasn't anyone else using it, so I got to basically just chill in the most relaxing hot tub while rain sprinkled down from outside. (It was on the roof, there were super high walls, no one could see in). It was probably the most relaxed and zen I was on the entire trip.

We did OK trying to make the best of the day in the rain, but it was definitely a struggle figuring out what to do to avoid getting drenched.

Fitbit stats:
26,037 steps
11.05 miles

You May Also Like