If you’re looking for a great day out in Kyoto one of the best spots to go has to be the scenic Arashiyama. Just to the north-west of Kyoto city you can find a monkey park, bamboo forest, river cruises and traditional Ukai fishing all in one place!
Arashiyama is easily reached on the Hankyu train line but if you like the scenic route I recommend taking the Hozugawa Kudari river ride from Kameoka. Going this way you get to ride a traditional boat down the river through the mountains and forest. The trip is especially popular in spring when the cherry blossoms are out and in autumn for the coloured leaves. It takes about 2 hours through beautiful scenery as the boatmen row and pole you towards Arashiyama and point out the landmarks as you go. If you keep yout eyes open you can see turtles, snakes and even a rock shaped like Snoopy! If you get hungry don’t worry- as you get near to Arashiyama a conbini boat pulls up with food and drinks so you can grab a bite just before you arrive!
Next stop on your day out in Arashiyama is the monkey park – the entrance is just by the Togetsukyo bridge. It’s a bit of a climb up the mountain but well worth it! The monkeys live wild on the mountain but have become used to humans so you can get close and even feed the monkeys in the hut at the top of the mountain. The windows have metal grilles instead of glass and if you hold food out to them, they will reach through and take it from your hand. If you’re lucky you might even see some of the baby monkeys come down for something to eat!
Once you make your way back down the mountain, walk back over the bridge and along the main street past the shops selling traditional souvenirs and take a left up to the bamboo forest and follow the path through. There’s only one path so you won’t get lost, but you feel miles away from the city when you’re surrounded by the bamboo stalks towering up above you.
After the bamboo forest head back to the river as it gets dark and just by the entrance to the monkey park you can buy tickets to see the Ukai cormorant fishing on the river. It’s a fantastic way to spend an evening and a great chance to see the traditional fishing using the cormorant birds. You go out on the river and the fishermen come past with the fires burning at the front of their boats to attract the fish and the birds on leads dive down to catch them. The leads around the cormorant’s necks allow them to swallow the smaller fish, but not the big ones so the fishermen can retrieve them from the birds once they’ve been caught. Don’t worry if you’re on the wrong side of the boat the first time around as both sides will get a turn at the front!