This weekend, June 10 through 12, my group and I traveled to Kyoto and Nara. After getting off at the station in Kyoto, we wandered around looking for our AirBnb. Due to the lack of signs, address numbers and small alleyways, we were lost. Luckily, my confused and lost face saved us because two English-speaking Japanese doctors approached us and asked if we needed help. We explained to them that we were lost and with no hesitation they helped us find our home. Walking with their bikes by their sides, they led us to our destination in no time. Beyond grateful, we invited them out for a drink in compensation of helping us. They took us to a local restaurant where we tried delicious stir-fry noodles, a “Japanese pancake” and sake. I’m not just saying this because I’m in Japan, but the sake here is far, far better than any sake I’ve ever tried in the States.
The next morning, we trudged up to the top of Arashiyama mountain. The entrance to the pathway was marked with a large, red torii gate. It took about twenty minutes to hike up the trail. The humidity was beating me down but there was nothing that was going to stop me from seeing the indigenous monkeys at the top! I was ecstatic when we got to the top especially because I’ve had an obsession with monkeys since I was kid. Everywhere you looked, there were monkeys walking around, grooming each other and climbing on the feeding room. You could buy either a bag of apples or a bag of peanuts for 100 yen. I of course bought both. I laughed at how the monkeys would extend their arms for the food before I even reached into the bag. At the peak of the mountain you could see an incredible view of the city.
Then, we walked through a crowded bamboo forest. Crystal and Samantha looked like royalty as they were carried through the forest on a rickshaw. Everyone hustled to move out of their way. We walked through the shops that included everything from fans, lucky cats, samurai swords and chopsticks. Every food vendor had something matcha flavored. Due to the intense heat outside, I couldn’t help but to get a matcha ice cream cone and dango, which is a type of dumpling made from rice flour.
From there, we traveled to Nara where we saw the enormous Buddha statue at the Todai-ji temple. In front of the temple a man lit incense in a large pot. The smell was calming. I got chills when we walked into the temple because of how huge the statue was. The Buddha shrine was decorated with offerings such as oranges, incense, flowers and candles. Besides the main Buddha statue, there were other statues there including the Pindola and the Tamonten. The temple was located near Nara Park which was crowded with deer! You were allowed to approach and touch the deer. I couldn’t help but to take a few selfies with them.
The next day we did a World Heritage tour where we saw various temples and shrines. Highlights of the tour included the Kinkaku-ji temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. The temple sat on the water with beautiful scenery behind it. My favorite temple we visited was the Kiyomizu temple in Higashiyama because of its beautiful colors. At the peak of the hill you could see the entire city, as well as the Kyoto tower. After taking a small break from walking all day, we went to the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, which had over a thousand torii gates. It was beyond worth it. This weekend was one that I will never forget!