Christmas with Snow Monkeys in the Sagano Bamboo Forest

Traditionally, during Christmas, my parents and I would go to the Pabst Theatre to see Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”Therefore, I found it only fitting, on Christmas Eve, to wrap up my time in Tokyo with a matinée theatre performance. 😀
For this, I went to the Kabukiza Theatre in Ginza for traditional Kabuki- a Japanese performance art, over 400 years old.

Kabukiza Theatre

DSC_0355DSC_0367Tickets for Kabuki can cost up to $200, but I chose the option of a same-day, single act performance for only $13. 😀
DSC_0349I waited in line for around 30 minutes, behind almost 70 other people, but finally got my ticket. 😀DSC_0350Cash onlyDSC_035120151224_125343I had time to kill before the show, so I decided to walk around the neighboring Imperial Palace Gardens.

Imperial Palace Gardens 

DSC_0317Moat surrounding the palaceDSC_0345Christmas was in the air. 🙂DSC_0348After walking around, I found my way back to the theatre and got nestled in my seat. DSC_0373The performance was in Japanese, so I downloaded the script beforehand, for a summary of the plot.

Tsumoru Koi Yuki No Seki No To
DSC_0371Kabuki, in Japanese, means to be extraordinary or elaborate. The play was incredibly dramatic, in both the pronounced facial expressions and suspenseful instrumental music.  DSC_0369No photos or videos were allowed during the performance, so here is a short YouTube video I found of another beautiful Kabuki performance.

http://www.kabuki-bito.jp/eng/contents/theatre/kabukiza.html 
After the show, I enjoyed a delicious post-performance meal of buckwheat soba noodles.

Soba noodles with pork, seaweed and eggDSC_0365Local noodle shop 
DSC_0361Soba noodles have a strong nutty flavor and noodle ‘slurping’ is highly encouraged. 😛
IMG_8443The rest of the night was spent in the hostel kitchen, chatting with a Californian chef who was kindly making mini Christmas cupcakes for everyone, out of the goodness of his heart. ❤
Later, on Christmas Eve, I took an overnight bus to Kyoto and arrived there early Christmas morning. 🙂

Overnight Bus: Tokyo to Kyoto

I was greeted Christmas day by quite possibly the nicest couple ever, as they welcomed me into their traditional, 100-year-old, wooden guesthouse.

Accommodation in Kyoto

DSC_0596DSC_0597DSC_0599

http://www.okimachi.com/index_en.html

Arashiyama and the Sagano Bamboo Forest

After dropping off my bags, I took a train to Arashiyama-a scenic district of Kyoto, nestled along the river, at the foothills of the mountains. DSC_0588Train ride to Arashiyama
DSC_0374DSC_0595Kimono walkway at the Arashiyama train station.
DSC_0378DSC_0380My cup of Christmas cheer. 😉
DSC_0381DSC_0592Walking in Arashiyama felt like stepping back in time. Traditional rickshaw drivers were pulling guests down the charming streets, which were filled with craft shops and restaurants.
DSC_0449DSC_0450Lots of cat knick-knacksDSC_0452Now I understand how they wear socks with sandals. 😛
DSC_0591The district is also filled with numerous temples and zen gardens.DSC_0441DSC_0464DSC_0384One of the main attractions here is the enchanted Sagano Bamboo Forest. DSC_0391DSC_0410DSC_0404DSC_0395DSC_0402I even met two girls there from South Korea. We chatted for a bit, despite the language barrier. So sweet! 😀10575283_10104869934873357_3031085753972710607_oNear the end of the bamboo path you will find Tenryuji Temple.
DSC_0403Tenryuji Temple was built in the 14th century, and is the largest temple in the area. DSC_0444DSC_0446It was also named one of the area’s top Zen temples, with a beautiful garden and koi pond.
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Japanese Snow Monkeys 

Aside from the temples, this town is also known for its local population of Japanese snow monkeys that live along the mountainside.DSC_0491They all live near an observatory, about a 20-minute uphill walk from town.
DSC_0482General rules when visiting: DSC_0480Scenic lookout and monkey park
DSC_0495DSC_0504Monkeys here walk around freely, with no separation between animal and man.
DSC_0498DSC_0502There are over 130 Japanese snow monkeys in these mountains, and the park knows all the local inhabitants by name. 🙂DSC_0543As a safety precaution, you are only allowed to feed them through the screened-off teahouse. DSC_0513DSC_0583DSC_0566There is also a safety ranger, but I’m not sure who’s on duty. 😛
DSC_0579The park itself has a gorgeous lookout over Arashiyama and the entire Kyoto prefecture. DSC_0505DSC_0553Rainbow after a light rain
DSC_0523The monkeys here were very laid back, which was comforting after my aggressive encounter with the monkeys at Khao Yai in Thailand.

Snow monkey, relaxing by the pond, eating junk between his toes. Hah. 😛
DSC_0548DSC_0556Taking a cool drink of waterDSC_0570

After all that fresh air, I was beat. I spent the evening chatting with hostel guests from France, Germany and New Zealand, followed by a nice stroll around town.DSC_0602[1]Feels strange to think that Christmas is just beginning for my family and friends back home, when I am close to heading to bed.

I guess I’ll end it with a traditional holiday closing. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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3 thoughts on “Christmas with Snow Monkeys in the Sagano Bamboo Forest

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