Another good thing about this hostel is that breakfast is provided. Breakfast is usually bread, potato salad (pretty good), instant miso soup and rice. Pretty decent breakfast I must say. We usually stuffed ourselves with loads of bread and potato salad and hearty bowl of miso soup before we started our day. I love the kitchen. It has a very communal atmosphere to it. Every morning, there will be groups of travelers, much like us getting their breakfast and sipping coffee. There are two long tables in kitchen so you have no choice but to sit with strangers, which is a good thing because it's a chance for you to share your travelling experiences. We got to know one couple from France and they told us which places to go to get the most of our Kyoto experience.
The kitchen area. Picture taken from the hostel's website. Lovely isn't it?
Another thing I love about this place is this huge map that they put up at the kitchen. It's basically a blown up map of Kyoto with popular tourist attractions highlighted. Very helpful for us first time travelers. And did I mention that the staff were helpful? Well, they were wonderful. From the night we arrived (they actually waited for us before they closed the reception just so we could check in) until the day we checked out, they were incredible.
Above is a picture of a blown up Kyoto map that the hotel puts up in the lounge. It shows the must-go places in Kyoto and how to get there. Cool isn't it?
We started the next day by visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. The forest is magnificent to say the least. Rows upon rows of bamboo trees lining up the path to the top. It was magical.
We stumbled upon this traditional looking entrance to a house
Gorgeous, isn't it?
From the Bamboo Forest, we went to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. We loved walking from the Bamboo Forest to the entrance of the monkey park. We had to cross the Togetsukyu Bridge to get to the monkey park from the bamboo, and the view was just beautiful. We took our time walking across the bridge, taking in the sights and sounds.
We didn't expect the hike to the monkey park was going to be challenging! It was quite a hike to get up to this monkey cage. Warning: parents who bring strollers are up for a challenge getting here.
The cool thing about this park is that the monkeys roam free while the visitors are in the cage, instead of the other way round. From inside the cage you can feed the monkeys with food bought only at the counter inside the cage. Be warned though that once the monkeys know that they'll be fed, they will become quite aggressive and impatient for the food.
From the monkey park we made our way back to Kyoto. I had the Nishiki market as one of the places that we were visiting in my itinerary and the market did not disappoint. The market is big and it will take some time to get from one end to the other, but it will be worth it I promise you. If you're curious to see what kind of things Japanese people eat, this will be the place to. You'll find gorgeous and fresh fish (they also sell sashimi to go), weird looking things you can't even begin to describe (see below picture) and of course, fresh oysters.
DH had a ball at this stall eating fresh oysters. They were shucked right before our eyes!
From the market we thought of finishing the day off by visiting Gion, a place famous for its geishas. Since it was too early for geisha sighting (we were told that they only come out in late evenings), we walked around Kawaramachi to scour for late lunch. A friend who had been to Japan before told us that food markets in Japanese department stores would be a good place to look for food. And she was right. We spotted a huge Takashimaya and decided to venture there and was amazed when we entered the food market. There were so many food to see that we didn't know where to start! We decided to keep it simple and have the smoked salmon salad with Japanese dressing. I took the first bite and was in salad heaven. The salmon was so good and the salad so fresh that we were tempted to get more.
After that heavenly meal, we walked around Pontocho for a bit. Pontocho is a lovely lane or alley to the west of Kamogawa River. Walking through the alley will transport you back to the olden days Kyoto. The buildings still retain their traditional look and feel and it is advisable to visit this alley at night, where the lanterns lining the alley will be lit. If you are adventurous when it comes to food, this will be the place to go as there are plenty of restaurants lining the alley.
From Pontocho we visited Gion. We were pretty disappointed with Gion I have to say. I would imagine that since Gion is one Japan's geisha's district, it would retain the old Kyoto feel, and we were surprised with how busy it was. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of geikos or geishas, and meikos (geisha apprentices) but we were unlucky. We did see people walking around in geisha costumes though. Apparently you can rent the costumes for the day.
We weren't sure if this "geisha" was the real deal
I did stumble upon Yojiya, a store which sells traditional cosmetics created in Kyoto itself. Since the products are not cheap, I only splurged on the hand cream, the face blotter (apparently the Japanese make the best face blotters) and lip balm, although truth be told I wanted to buy everything the store had to offer.
So there you have it. A long overdue update on Day 5 of my Japan trip.
Thanks for reading!