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Japan 2016: Day 3

This article is a post I originally made on Facebook about our third day in Japan which took place on April 5, 2016. On the 1 year anniversary of our trip to Japan I decided to repost it here on my blog. The original post has been edited/cleaned up a bit but its spirit remains.

Today we only had two concrete plans: visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and celebrate Jarques' birthday. The quickest way to the bamboo grove was to use our JR passes and take the San'in Line at Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station. This was our first time heading to a major station during the morning rush hour and holy smokes it was busy. We arrived eight minutes before our train was supposed to leave and it was as already packed as much as any standard train in North America would be. By the time we left we were jammed in there like sardines, shoulder to shoulder (or butt to butt in Jarques' case).

Thankfully it was only a 15 minute train ride to Saga-Arashiyama where we disembarked and started walking down the streets towards the bamboo grove. Along the way we finally found a taiyaki stand (a fish-shaped cake usually filled with red bean paste), one of the traditional Japanese treats we had wanted to try.

The size of the stalks of the bamboo in the grove cannot be overstated. They were absolutely gargantuan. They must have been reaching hundreds of feet into the sky. However the grove was absolutely slammed with tourists. It was like a herd from The Walking Dead. We followed a nice winding path through the grove until we came out the other side passing through a few temples along the way. All of the temples had admission fees so we decided not to bother. The cutest part of our little walk was that, being a school day, there was a number of elementary school classes on field trips and the students had been told to practice their English. So Jarques' had been approached multiple times by cute little schoolgirls asking "Do you speak English? Where are you from? What is your favorite food?". It was adorbs.

After the exited the grove we headed along its edge, through a public park and down to a river which would take us to our next stop, Togetsu-kyo Bridge. Across the bridge was a small island where we saw signs which led to what would be the best activity we'd been to in Japan by far, the Iwatayama Monkey Park

The park was a beautiful 20 minute hike up a mountain and it did not disappoint. The monkeys actually roamed freely around the park and would just casually stroll by you. There was a small hut with chicken wiring on the windows where you could hand feed the monkeys some peanuts or apple slices. Being that close to the monkeys while they were just chilling (or sunbathing on a roof) was an absolutely amazing experience. The view from the peak was breathtaking as well.

After another enjoyable hike down the mountain we found a soba restaurant to take in a late lunch. This would be my first "meh" experience with food in Japan. I don't think it was prepared badly (both Elsie and Tina devoured their noodles) but the texture and fishy smell of the soba noodles and tempura shrimp we had just was not my cup of tea. This won't stop me from trying all sorts of things in Japan though!

After lunch it was time to head back to Kyoto via the San'in Line again and get back to our Airbnb so we could rest a bit before dinner. Apparently I underestimated how tired I was because I immediately fell asleep for three hours until I was awakened at 9pm.

Jarques' and Tina had left earlier to celebrate his birthday so Elsie and I headed back towards Ponto-chō alley with the goal of finding a kaiten sushi restaurant. Unfortunately the place we wanted to go to had a huge line so we went around the corner to a steakhouse, Gottie's Beef. We had some decent rib eye steak and mojitos and then met back up with with Jarques and Tina for some beers before calling it a night.