My friend Wei Chiang had finally arrived in Kyoto, but he was still not very well. He didn’t have a good sleep and woke up early in the morning for a sunrise walk of Fushimi Inari shrine nearby. After I woke up later, I met him at Vermillion cafe, where we decided to go to Araishiyama for the day.
So far, I had been buying single trip tickets to ride the train. While not more expensive than other options, it certainly is a more inconvenient one. Kyoto does have a train & bus day pass for 2000 yen, but it’s unlikely you would travel 2000 yen of trips a day. The easier option is to buy an ICOCA card in Kyoto or the SUICA card in Tokyo to tap through the gantries, like the EZ-Link card in Singapore. Both the ICOCA and SUICA card can be used in throughout Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo train networks. However, I should have bought SUICA card, since you can’t get the ICOCA card refunded in Tokyo, only Osaka or Kyoto.
On the train, it was a quick journey to Araishiyama, a popular town for tourists in the northwestern part of Kyoto. We went for a walk in the famous Araishiyama Bamboo Grove, where green bamboo shoots loomed all over us; a calming emerald laneway despite the massive crowds thronging the path and angling for that Insta-worthy shot.
Then we went back to the food market area. For a quick lunch, I decided to try a tofu burger (400 yen). It was a small, cute thing like the burgers you find at MOS burger. The patty somehow had the texture of fishcake. It had a sweet marinade and creamy mayonnaise.
I also decided to try the Sakura ice-cream in the same area (300 yen) to see what it tastes like. It is a seasonal flavour sold all over Japan during cherry blossom season. It’s hard to compare with anything; it’s not exactly like strawberry or cranberries or any other fruit. It simply had the flavour of…cherry blossoms, as you would imagine it. It’s a lovely gentle flavour that should be tried in this season.
We continued walking around after lunch. Araishiyama is a tourist-friendly and pretty place in cherry blossom season, even if it is a bit crowded. But still lovely. We decided (or I decided, and Wei Chiang gracefully conceded) to try the dessert at Musubi café, a vegan/vegetarian establishment. The vegan cheesecake was interesting. While it managed to imitate the desirable texture of a conventional New York cheesecake well, the tofu flavour is too strong for my liking. However, the coffee was mediocre and overpriced (450 yen for a plain black coffee).
We then visited the monkey park. The entry fee is a reasonable 550 yen and required a 20-minute walk up a hill with switchbacks — which I welcomed as good exercise. As we neared the top, we started seeing more and more monkeys, until we reached the hut on a small plateau where most of the monkey were. There was a good view of Kyoto from here. It is possible to feed the monkeys if apples are available at the counter in the hut. At this point, the monkeys have gotten used to humans and adapted to depend on the caretakers. At feeding time, the caretaker’s call brings all the monkeys back to the viewing area. Despite their familiarity with humans, the monkeys remain fairly docile and un-aggressive.
It was about time to call it a day and we took the train back to Inari. Wei Chiang was tired, so I went out for dinner on my own to a yakitori place I had heard was really good…
My friend made a video of the day we had that you can watch here: