Arashiyama – bites, burns and boats

Arashiyama was actually much more pleasant than I suggest with this title. Read on…

I met Katie outside Kyoto Tower again. We had a quick drink then went to the station. A creepy man followed us at the station staring at me and murmuring “iphone…iphone..” which was a bit disconcerting. We hopped on the train to Kameoka, and walked to the boat trip office, seeing some great views of rice paddies on the way. After chatting to some keen women hoping to improve their English, we got into the wooden boat with a load of Japanese tourists and began our journey down the Hozu-gawa river. We spotted a few terrapins and cranes, and took some photos of the father and two sons on the paddles and one using something a lot like a punting pole (made of bamboo) to push us forward. The trip started off fairly sedately, but we knew that rapids lay in wait somewhere along the way. After travelling past some people in an inflatable dinghy wearing life jackets and helmets, we worried that perhaps we should have been more wary. We wondered how our parents would react to news that we had perished in rapids in the Hozu-Gawa river.

Fortunately we didn’t need to worry. The rapids were tame, the most upsetting aspect being when I was lightly splashed in the face. The scenery was beautiful, and though we saw exciting signs warning of the threat of falling rocks, and were told about bridges falling down, nothing that exciting happened. We saw notable rocks on the river including “trace of rope” rock, “monkey jump” and “the biggest rock”. More interesting were the hillside with a smiley face somehow formed by the alignment of the trees, the bridge built by British prisoners of war (contraversial!!) and the boat that pulled up beside us and motored along at the same speed to sell us food. All in all it was a lovely trip, and as usual people were very helpful, keen to translate things into English for us, tell us when to take photos, and make Katie try out the oar! Sadly despite using suncream I still got royally disgustingly Britishly burnt. I’m ashamed, very ashamed. I’m as red as a lobster, have incredibly defined striking strap marks, and look permenantly mortified: because my cheeks are red, AND I’m mortified. Red skin seems to be pretty novelty for the Japanese. Damn them all and their nice skin. Oh well hopefully it will turn into tan quickly. Please Buddha please. Later I’m heading upstairs to slather myself in moisturiser and stand there like a twit. Oh yeah and I just bought expensive mosquito bite soothing stuff, I’ve been feasted on by the little buggars and was awake for ages last night writhing around because of the itchiness.

After the boat trip we explored a bit of Arashiyama: we had lunch, bought some delightful tat in the touristy shops, and saw the bamboo grove, a famous pathway through very tall bamboo, which surprisingly takes only two months to grow, and looks exactly like a setting for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. We saw a shrine and stared at some geisha (nor sure if they were real) who rang the shrine bell: we took loads of photos and Katie observed that we had earnt about 1,000,000 Japan points and I suggested that we had “done” Japan and could probably go home. We got a very unfortunate rickshaw guy to pull us back through Arashiyama in his rickshaw. We stopped for him to take photos for us, he told us facts in great English, and generally charmed us by repeating that we were like geisha (in fact he seemed to squeak geishaaaaa every five minutes and so did the friends of his that we passed, “hellloooooooo” wave wave etc). Given the price he charged us, it was the least he could do. But poor man, he was absolutely dripping with sweat once he had got us over the bridge. He gave us a free sticker, and instructions on how we could get to the Monkey Park (let’s face it, this is what we really came to see).

We trekked to the top of a very very steep hill, zig zagging up and up on little rocky paths. By the time we got to the top I was grateful just to be alive, and that it would only be a few of us and the monkeys… So, they looked just like the brown monkeys I’ve seen in Sri Lanka and Thailand, but Japanese monkeys have bum flaps, that’s the difference apparently. Nice. We bought the monkeys some apple and handed them bits of it through the wire windows of the building (we were inside, they were outside, making a nice change to usual zoos). They were very very cute, and just when I thought they were fairly polite and gentle one grabbed the bag of apple from Katie and scratched her hand, not good! Katie hope you’re ok and don’t need a rabies jab!!
We went outside to where the monkeys were lounging around on the telescopes; there was a great view from the top of the mountain. Yeah it was basically a MOUNTAIN.

So I might go back to Arashiyama sometime because we didn’t have loads of time to do everything. There’s a UNESCO world heritage site there, the Tenryu-ji temple: can’t really miss a world heritage site! It’s got some lovely gardens too apparently. And in the evening cormorant fishing goes on in the area according to my guidebook. Bit gutted though, for the thousandth time, that I’m missing autumn foliage, i.e the beautiful red leaves. But apparently things get horribly busy then. Still, one day maybe.

I’m afraid my iPhone was only used for super-trivial photos today, but enjoy. Take particular notice of the “no molesting girls/women” poster. Men who do this are a problem on the subway, there’s even a name for them which I’ve forgotten. Subway trains now have carriages especially for women. Needless to say I was a little paranoid while riding the subway today. Oh and I ate dinner at Subway today too… Sorry. Mmm. Oh and I found British things in an imported food store, yay!

Lots of love ^_^

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One Response to “Arashiyama – bites, burns and boats”

  1. Joanna Says:

    Aw you’re so Japanese already with your asian emoticons -_-

    Sounds like you’re having an amazing time, I remain super jealous. My exciting day of sorting through old boxes of junk with my mum seems rather less glamorous by comparison.

    Can’t wait to see all your gorgeous photos taken on your uber-chunky proffessional camera. Which one did you end up taking?

    p.s. can you send me a postcard? Not sure if you’re up to conquering the Japanese postal service. If you can, my preferences lie towards postcards with nudity and some sort of leery “wish you were here” type message. However, I will accept naked Geisha, clothed Geisha, or just some kind of pretty landscape if worst comes to worst.

    J xxxxxxx

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