Bamboo, blossoms and monkey business

It’s so good to be back in Shinjuku! It is our spiritual home in Japan.

Actually it’s not spiritual at all, it’s totally materialistic, loud and flashy. But our day started in a highly spiritual place in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto.

When planning this holiday one of the activities I wanted to do was to travel the entire length of the JR San-in line. We did manage the stretch between Masuda and Yonago while travelling to and from Matsue. Today we started on the initial segment from Kyoto on a local train to Saga Arashimaya station.

Outside the JR station is the SL (Steam Locomotive) and Piano Museum. Interesting combination! Unfortunately, we had to put off a trip on the scenic tramway leaving from the museum until another time. Instead we walked from the station and towards the river. A variety of trendy and souvenier stores lined the streets.

After a simple meal of pork sets (putting up with american tourists who were reading the guidebook out loud) we crossed over the Oi river on the Togetsukyo Bridge. B wanted to see the Iwatayama Monkey Park.

I was expecting a tacky experience with lots of caged performing monkeys. Instead we climbed the steep path up the side of the hill, under cedars, maples and the occasional camellia and cherry trees until we reached the wild monkey territory up near the top. We were warned not to stare at the monkeys and to be careful with photography, so it was quite scary to see these medium size creatures squatting in front of you on the path ahead.

Fortunately there was an indoor observation building with a nice wood fire at the top of the hill, as it was bitterly cold and had begun to rain and we were without umbrellas. Peanuts and fruits were sold in order to feed the monkeys from inside the shelter. It was as if we were in the cages!

We watched the crazy antics of the monkeys for a while, but it was Alex’s feeding time so we could not stay too long. The walk down was so much easier than the way up! We found a public toilet block with change facilities and a covered area where B could feed Alex.

Once Alex was sated we crossed back over the bridge and walked up the street until we came to the entrance of the Tenryuji Temple.

The Adachi Museum of Art might have been voted the best Japanese garden in the world, but I prefer Tenryuji’s superb garden. The Adachi’s garden was sterile and uninvolving in comparison to some of the temple gardens that we have seen. There were gorgeous blooming cherry blossom trees weeping towards the ground, as well as other flowers beginning to show themselves.

We exited Tenryuji and entered the bamboo grove. The tree-tall bamboo offers a grand corridor to walk through, the leafy tops high above us, shading us from the sky, but for a small amount of dappled light filtering through to the ground.

There really was not any time to view the many other temples and sights in Arashiyama as we had a train to catch to Tokyo.

When we arrived back at Kyoto station it was in chaos. Power had been lost to the entire station building and staff were manually passing passengers through the barriers. Shops, toilets and escalators were all closed.

Fortunately, the subway was still open and we were able to collect our bags from the hotel. On our return power electricity appeared to have bee restored.

We decided to take our chances with the seating for the Hikari Shinkansen to Tokyo, but managed to find a three seater ourselves. It was another boring early type Shinkansen, but it got us to Shinagawa station, where we changed to the Yamanote Line to Shinjuku.

The local Yamanote train was absolutely packed. Three stops before Shinjuku and Alex had had enough and started bawling.

Stepping out of Shinjuku station brought back a flood of wonderful memories. It’s actually been three years since we were last in Shinjuku, but it seems like little has changed. Even the same one-eyed homeless women standing outside the PePe building that houses our hotel.

The Shinjuku Prince Hotel is our home in Shinjuku. The Semidouble room may be small, but its so stylish and the big window makes it feel so much larger than it really is. I wish that I could take it home with me, complete with view, and make it my room or office.

Now it’s time to enjoy that wonderful bed and doona. Goodnight!

Filed under: