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Arashiyama III

... or a near death experience in Monkey Park

Yesterday was our day off and in the morning Courtney went out shopping. She managed to find two bathing suits and a new pack and I stayed here and studied Japanese. (I decided I'm going to write the Japanese Language Proficiency test in December. Oh yeah, I am going to write the lowest level possible. So I need to study a lot.) I met up with her and we decided to go to Arashiyama for the evening because they have a cormorant fishing festival. The fishermen in Arashiyama have cormorants that do their fishing for them. The birds fly out and catch the fish and bring them back to the fishermen. It sounds pretty cool.

This started around 7:00 and we got to Arashiyama around 4:00 so we had some time to kill. The last time we were in Arashiyama we wanted to go to Monkey Park, but it was closed. So this time we decided to go.

Here are some pictures of our hike up to Monkey Park.

MP - Waterfall.jpg MP - Food sign.jpg

To give you a little background on Monkey Park it is up the mountain, which we didn't realize until we paid to go in. I tell you Croc sandals are comfortable especially after hiking 15 minutes up a mountain. Also it had rained hard that day so no one was out and about. Thirdly, with the humidity and the vegetation in Monkey Park it reminded us of the island from Jurassic Park (and we all know how that turned out). Finally, there was the ominous music playing everywhere in Monkey Park. It was like something out of a suspense movie. Alright, yes, so I made this one up. But, it is hard to build suspense while you are just writing a story.

We hiked for about 10 minutes and then we found a monkey. He was lying on the bench all stretched out and scratching himself. Then he got up and played a bit. He was pretty cute. Here are the shots Courtney took distance. She wanted to play it safe or something.

MP - Monkey bench.jpg MP - Monkey bench 3.jpg MP - Monkey bench 2.jpg

But I decided I'm pretty sneaky, so I thought I could get close to him and take a couple of shots. I got a few closer shots of him.

Then this happened.

MP - Monkey Attack.jpg

This is the shot just after he noticed me and just before he charged at me. I was a little nervous before around the monkeys because I wasn't sure what they would actually do. Then the first monkey we saw charged us. So I took off running up the mountain. And my first thought was, "Run as fast as I can". Then my second thought was, "Not as fast as I can, just faster than Courtney." Actually, Courtney stopped and defended us with the umbrella. She stopped and turned around and yelled something while pointing the umbrella at the monkey. She was very brave; I, on the other hand, was just very fast. So you can run pretty quick in Croc sandals as well. Also, it turns out I'm not that sneaky.

So we hiked up a little bit further and then we found the compound where the monkeys live and where they feed them. But by this time we where both on edge and in fear of being attacked by monkeys (I saw Outbreak about 5 times when it came out) and no one else being around didn't help either. By this time we managed to get ourselves pretty freaked out and didn't want to go near the monkeys; turns out, not only was it like Jurassic Park, but with a bit of Congo thrown in (a Michael Crichton double feature, if you will). And once we got there all the monkeys were fighting and chasing each other every where. And a couple gave chase right by Courtney’s legs. The other problem was that these two monkeys were in our path to continue up the hill.

MP - Monkey Path 2.jpg

Apparently there's a great view of Kyoto up there, but we were not about to find out. After this we decided to head back down the hill. However, we ran into a couple more monkeys and the longer we stayed there the more our imagination went wild. So we stood there for a while hoping the monkeys would move, but they were too busy picking lice or mites or some other kind of arthropod off each other.

MP - Monkey Path.jpg

We were on the section with switchbacks, so I decided I would just go over the edge and keep going. Once I got down, a little old Japanese lady came walking along. Here are some of the shots Courtney took while we were pretending that we weren't scared of these monkeys.

MP - AC lookout.JPG MP - Lands.. scared.JPG

Then we watched the Japanese lady walk past the monkeys and everything was ok. So Courtney walked right past them and we left Monkey Park vowing that we would be ok if the only time we ever saw a monkey again was in the zoo.

The other good thing is we can laugh at this. Actually, we started laughing at it as soon as we got out of Monkey Park. And I was laughing during the whole time it took me to write this.

After we left the park, we made our way into town for some "we survived the Planet of the Apes" celebratory crêpes. They were delicious and only slightly less life-threatening. Here's one of those faux-food displays showing the bevy of crêpe options available to us.

MP - Crepe display.JPG

This crêpe shop is located in the streetcar station in downtown Arashiyama (this is like saying something is located in downtown St. Andrews: it's basically the town). It's beautifully decorated with bamboo-esque wood panelling.

MP - Stree..station.JPG

We've taken this street car into Kyoto-proper before. It runs through people's backyards and stops at streetlights. You can see people's laundry and their bonsai collections.

We finished our crêpes and poked our heads into the touristy shops that are also in the station. We asked for information about the cormorant fishing activity, and decided to take a walk up the main drag. We heard "hello" from behind us as we were walking. A couple of other tourists had seen us at Monkey Park and were on the trail ahead of us. They had made it to the top unscathed and had fed the monkeys, seen the view, and enjoyed it thoroughly. They wanted to make sure we went back and saw it, as it was one of their best experiences in Japan. Turns out the two were Canadians, both living in Calgary, but one was originally from Newfoundland (she picked up on an accent in our voices and had to ask where we were from). They asked us for advice on things they should see in the area, and we listed off a few of our adventures. We then wished each other luck and went our separate ways. It's really nice speaking English to people you meet randomly that aren't in the 'English-teaching' circle.

After this, we walked around a little bit more, re-exploring some places we'd seen before. Here are some of the photos of a pond near a temple we'd visited in late winter. The once-barren pond was now full of flowers and various types of pond life:

MP - Pond bridge.JPG MP - Turtle Pond.jpg MP - Frog Pond.jpg

This last shot is just for you Mom; remember those dried blue honeycomb pod things we used to have in the house? Well, this is where they come from. They are inside these huge pink and white flowers (this pink bud is the size of two hands, palms together - huge!). I always wondered what the heck those things were. All I knew was I wanted to get those marble thingys out of the compartments.

MP - Blue dried pods.JPG

When it was getting close to cormorant go-time, we made our way back to the riverside to await the hustle and bustle that usually comes with preparing for run for fish (now, Courtney wouldn't know anything about that, would she?). But, much to our disappointment, there was neither hustle nor bustle; however, there was plenty of opportunity for wildlife photography (nothing like the monkeys, though). Some of the best shots follow.

MP - Heron stand.JPG MP - Heron flight 21.JPG MP - Heron flight 1.JPG
We saw quite a few herons. I think the number of herons I've seen in Japan has far surpassed the ones I've seen at home. They come in the large bluish-gray variety, as well as the smaller white variety. It's a little small, but in the second shot there are two herons taking off.

MP - River.JPG MP - Hawk flight.JPG MP - River 2.JPG

This new camera is awesome. I just love taking rapid-fire shots of birds in flight. I have a great series of this hawk; my personal favourite is above. We're debating the purchase of a telephoto lens before our trip...

Well, we waited by the river a while, but there was no cormorant fishing for us on this day. We made our way back to the train station. On the way, we made a pitstop at the previously-mentioned Autotoilet. This is by far the best public toilet experience I've ever had (cold seat not-withstanding), what with the ambient music and the guaranteed cleanliness. Good times in the Autotoilet. After I was done, I stepped outside, the door shut behind me, and we could hear the entire place being sprayed clean. I'm not sure how the toilet paper stays dry. It was all very Whirpool-dishwasher.

Andrew went on to the station, and I went to the convenience store to pick up a pre-departure snack. There were only about ten minutes before the train was due to arrive, so I sort of rushed and didn't adequately inspect what I was buying. I met Andrew at the station, and handed him the spoils of the trip to the store. And then he spotted the yellow squeeze bottle on the bag of what I though bore some resemblance to Ringolos. Well, you know how we have ketchup chips at home? Well that night we found some mustard potato crisps. Ew. That's all I have to say about that. Those got pitched pretty quick.

We got on the train, and as we were doing so, I noticed how pretty the hanging lanterns at the station were. You don't really notice them in the daylight. At night though... I'll let the picture speak for itself:

MP - Train at night.JPG

So, despite the scary monkeys and the rain and the lack of cormorant fishing, we had a pretty fantastic day off, just wandering around and not rushing to get anywhere. Here's hoping Hokkaido will be just as laid back.

Posted by agc_cwm 22:30 Archived in Japan

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