Arashiyama – Monkey Business

In November 2019, I took my parents to Japan for their first time – and my seventh – over two weeks. This series is to be read as a diary, and serves as a place to showcase the pictures taken and preserve the memories made.

If you’re reading this during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, it must be surreal to be on a travel post. I get you. But perhaps there is no better time than now – especially as we have more of it – to have a good think about all the places to see, things to do and food to eat when this all blows over. After all, one of the best bits about travel is the planning and anticipation of it. We could all use a bit of an escape from this unreality.

Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park
This blog series has gone to the dogs monkeys.

Date of trip: 14/Nov/2019 – 28/Nov/2019

This post may contain affiliate links. Purchases made by clicking on an affiliate link may earn a small commission for me, but never at extra cost for you. Please visit the Affiliate Marketing Policy for more information.

All experiences – food, accommodation and activities in this post were independently paid for.

Series Contents (TBC)

Day 1 – Hiroshima (introduction)Day 2 – Okayama/Kurashiki
Day 3 – OsakaDay 4 – Mount Koya
Day 5 – KyotoDay 6 – Kyoto
Day 7 – ArashiyamaDay 8 – Kyoto
Day 9 – UjiDay 10 – Hakone
Day 11 – HakoneDay 12 – Tokyo
Day 13 – TokyoDay 14 – Tokyo

Japan Day 7 – Arashiyama

  • Arashiyama
  • Arashiyama

Visit Rome without marvelling at the sheer architectural scale of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Visit Paris without taking in the riotous opulence of Versailles. Visit Kyoto without losing yourself in Arashiyama’s verdant bamboo forests.

There’s a term for these kinds of trips: incomplete.

  • Arashiyama
  • Arashiyama
  • Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park
  • Arashiyama
  • Arashiyama

Now, there is a fantastic reason not to visit Arashiyama: if you think Kyoto landmarks get their fair share of tourists, wait till you visit Storm Mountain during peak season (which, really, is almost all year these days). It’s one of the few times where even Japanese manners fail, where people in their quest just to take a step forward are forced to spill out onto the streets meant for vehicles. It can be a sh*t show.

Arashiyama
This is meant to be a traffic thoroughfare. Far out.

But if you brave – and contribute to – the crowds, you’ll see why they congregate here.

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
  • Arashiyama bamboo forest
  • Arashiyama Tenryuji Temple
  • Arashiyama Tenryuji Temple
  • Arashiyama Tenryuji Temple
  • Arashiyama Tenryuji Temple

Equally impressive is Tenryuji Temple, one of many at Arashiyama, but inarguably the most important, as its founding story involves both shoguns and Emperors (but this isn’t a history lesson so I’ll leave that up to you). Combined with its sheer beauty and you’ll see why its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation was a no-brainer.

Arashiyama Tenryuji Temple
  • Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park
  • Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park
  • Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park

Once the rents were suitably impressed with Arashiyama’s bamboo groves, historic sites and criminally beguiling scenery, it was time to get down to some monkey business. Iwatayama Monkey Park is a short hike up the Arashiyama Mountain which is inhabited by over a hundred wild Japanese macaque monkeys. Red butts all around, it’s certainly one of Japan’s more unique tourist hotspots.

  • Iwatayama monkey park
  • Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park
  • Arashiyama Unagi Hirokawa
  • Arashiyama Unagi Hirokawa
  • Arashiyama Unagi Hirokawa
  • Arashiyama Unagi Hirokawa
  • Arashiyama Unagi Hirokawa

Lunch was at Unagi Hirokawa, which as you no doubt have guessed, specialises in Japanese freshwater eel. Now I need to be clear: don’t visit if you’re not a fan of the slithery swimmers, as all of Unagi Hirokawa’s courses (ranging from 5300JPY to 13,000JPY – $191 AUD but a la carte available) feature eel heavily, as you’d expect. We’re talking grilled eel liver, eel & liver soup, eel & egg hot pot, and a whole eel’s worth of meat served kabayaki-style on rice. Eel eel eel. Sound funny yet?

  • Arashiyama Unagi Hirokawa
  • Arashiyama Unagi Hirokawa

If this sounds bloody excellent to you, make sure to reserve at least six weeks in advance during the busy season. Thank me later when you’re getting your name checked off while watching – with just a sprinkling of schadenfreude – a steady stream of people being turned away because they thought they could walk in.

Arashiyama Unagi Hirokawa
Entrance to Unagi Hirokawa
Yuba soft serve
Don’t leave Arashiyama without trying their yuba (tofu skin) products. This is yuba soft serve. Before you get freaked out, it’s really just like a soft serve made from soy milk with tofu notes. Quite refreshing.
kyoto Conana wafu pasta
Soy milk carbonara

As it was a helluva long day (something like 7am-9pm), dinner had to satisfy three criteria: fast, delicious, and close to the hotel. In yet another case of ‘only in Japan’, train station dining – at least at major train stations – is an unexpectedly satisfying and dare I say it, high quality experience. Our supper was at Conana, a wafu pasta restaurant. Wafu refers to ‘Japanese style’ [cuisine], and its various interpretations of European pasta is one of the more successful Asian fusion stories. I’ve forgotten just how satisfying it is to eat thoughtfully crafted pasta dishes that’s not as the Italians do. I won’t try to convince you because My recommendation? The soy milk carbonara. Thank me later.

  • Kyoto Conana wafu pasta
  • Kyoto Conana wafu pasta
  • Kyoyo Conana wafu pasta

Got a thought to share? Leave it here! Entering your email means you can get notified when I reply to your comment!

%d bloggers like this: