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.
Tickets for Kabuki can cost up to $200, but I chose the option of a same-day, single act performance for only $13. 😀
I waited in line for around 30 minutes, behind almost 70 other people, but finally got my ticket. 😀Cash onlyI had time to kill before the show, so I decided to walk around the neighboring Imperial Palace Gardens.
Imperial Palace Gardens
Moat surrounding the palaceChristmas was in the air. 🙂After walking around, I found my way back to the theatre and got nestled in my seat. The performance was in Japanese, so I downloaded the script beforehand, for a summary of the plot.
Tsumoru Koi Yuki No Seki No To
Kabuki, in Japanese, means to be extraordinary or elaborate. The play was incredibly dramatic, in both the pronounced facial expressions and suspenseful instrumental music. No photos or videos were allowed during the performance, but here is the Kabuki website if you want to learn more. After the show, I enjoyed a delicious post-performance meal of buckwheat soba noodles.
Soba noodles with pork, seaweed and eggLocal noodle shop
Soba noodles have a strong nutty flavor and noodle ‘slurping’ is highly encouraged. 😛
The 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
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. Train ride to Arashiyama
Kimono walkway at the Arashiyama train station.
My cup of Christmas cheer. 😉
Walking 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.
Lots of cat knick-knacksNow I understand how they wear socks with sandals. 😛
The district is also filled with numerous temples and zen gardens.One of the main attractions here is the enchanted Sagano Bamboo Forest. I even met two girls there from South Korea. We chatted for a bit, despite the language barrier. So sweet! 😀Near the end of the bamboo path you will find Tenryuji Temple.
Tenryuji Temple was built in the 14th century, and is the largest temple in the area. It was also named one of the area’s top Zen temples, with a beautiful garden and koi pond.
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.They all live near an observatory, about a 20-minute uphill walk from town.
General rules when visiting: Scenic lookout and monkey park
Monkeys here walk around freely, with no separation between animal and man.
There are over 130 Japanese snow monkeys in these mountains, and the park knows all the local inhabitants by name. 🙂As a safety precaution, you are only allowed to feed them through the screened-off teahouse. There is also a safety ranger, but I’m not sure who’s on duty. 😛
The park itself has a gorgeous lookout over Arashiyama and the entire Kyoto prefecture. Rainbow after a light rain
The 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. 😛
Taking a cool drink of water
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.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!