“This would be a great pond for pond hockey.” We’re at a Zen Buddhist Temple and Chad whispers this in my ear as we stare out into the beautiful gardens. We’re on the other side of Kyoto in the Arashyama neighborhood and we’re checking off our local temples and shrines. This one, Tenryū-ji, is a World Heritage Site (there are many in Kyoto) and it’s very peaceful. There is a bamboo forest here that you often see in tourism advertising and it’s included in a scene in Memoirs of a Geisha, though seeing in person was underwhelming and crowded.
We make our way out of the temple, stopped at the cutest (kuwaii!) bakery ever, and then started our hike up the side of a mountain to see Japanese monkeys. I’ve never seen monkeys in the wild before, and I really don’t like going to zoos, so I’m skeptical I’ll feel good about the situation. Up we go, with all the other tourists in Kyoto. We get to the top and I am pleasantly surprised. It’s not too crowded and the monkeys really are free. Yes, we can go into a cage to feed them apples and bananas, which isn’t very natural, but other than that they are wandering around there on the side of the mountain. The babies were obviously my favorite, and we watched them for most of the time we’re there. Every time an adult male monkey starts to get angry, some of the workers will run over and shoo them away to tell them to stop behaving like that. The babies cling onto their mamas backs and run by our feet. They pay really no attention to us as they go about their day, and when they want to get away from humans they climb up into the mountain and find a good tree to hang out in. I approve of this monkey situation.
Being around all the babies makes me miss little Penny so, so, so much it hurts and I have to stop thinking about her because I may end up getting on a plane to go home to her. Don’t. Think. About. Your. Dog.
We head back down the mountain to the train station, clocking in another 8 miles walked for the day. The good news is that we burn off all of the baked goods we ate.. the bad news is.. well is there bad news?
We head back into Kyoto for dinner, wandering around the main strip of restaurants and nightlife. Kyoto is really quiet at night other than this main little area; our guide told us that Kyoto is like old men going to bed early. But this street is filled with people trying to find a bite to eat. We’re feeling sushi so we find a spot on Google, though when we stumble upon it, there is no sign outside. We slide open the door and five Japanese men look up at us from the sushi bar and stare. Okay.. we’re doing this. We walk in, take off our shoes, and slide down at the far end into the bar. The sushi chef smiles along with his wife who is behind the counter. We order a set of sushi and some Asahi beer and my nerves go away a bit. I’m sure they are talking about us as we sit patiently and wait for the food. The sushi chef cuts my sushi in half for me because it was too big(?) but I don’t mind because it takes longer to eat this way and I can savor every moment. The sushi is served by hand, without plates, right in front of us on the bar. Every single bite was pure magic. Soon we’re no longer stared at or talked about, though we are asked if we are famous actors in New York City (we say we’re from close to New York because that’s easier than saying Connecticut). Sadly, I say, no we aren’t.
What a day, sushi, shrines, and snow monkeys.