Japan 2023: Day 4

Arashiyama in light snow, Tenryu-ji, Rilakkuma cafe, first night coding, Matsuya noshing before midnight, adjusting to my weird sleep schedule.

Table of contents

Steps taken: 16,435

I woke up ridiculously early again before 6 a.m. My body just doesn't know yet what to do with itself. :( But I stuck it out since I figured this would be a good way to get tired early enough to sleep in the early afternoon so I had some sleep before doing computer stuff at 8 p.m.

It was supposed to be cold and snowing today, so I didn't want to rent a bike or take yet another strenuous hike. Plus, my computer stuff later... so I didn't want to leave Kyoto. After dawdling in bed, calling my partner, and figuring out what to do with myself, I settled on making a trip to Arashiyama, hopefully before it got too crowded. I caught a bus that took about 45 minutes to get there at around 9 a.m.

Arriving at Arashiyama

There are several bus stops in the Arashiyama area. The ones on the bus route I took included Arashiyama (Kyoto), Arashiyama Tenryu-ji mae, and Nonomiya. I decided to get off at the first one since it was close to what seemed to be a cool bridge called Togetsu-kyo. I walked across it to take some pictures and assumed that was the way towards the bamboo forest, but I was wrong! It's apparently on the way to the snow monkey park and at least one other shrine. Since I wanted to specifically see the bamboo forest before the big crowds arrived, I turned the other way, hoping I'd catch the park with my partner on a future trip.

On the way were lots of shops that were still closed. There were some other tourists already walking around, but I wouldn't call them a crowd. I passed a large temple complex called Tenryu-ji, which I figured out was where the next bus stop would've taken me; and then Nonomiya, which would've dropped me right at the entrance to the bamboo forest.

Right before the forest began were a few food and souvenir shops that were already open with no crowds. I wish I grabbed some fried sweet potato snack then – they looked so good – since when I came back a few hours later, the lines were inccredibly long.

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The bamboo forest

What can I say? This was really cool! Redditors prepared me into thinking it wasn't that long, but I found several winding paths of bamboo forest that felt sufficiently long for me.

Not far into the forest entrance was the shrine Nonomiya, so now I understood the name of that final bus stop! Apparently it's popular among women wishing for a healthy and fortuitous pregnancy and childbirth.

I took my time soaking in the forest and taking pictures with the light snowfall.

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Then I started wandering past the forest. On one of the paths was another entrance to Tenryu-ji, so I decided to swing by it. I admittedly was getting drawn to collecting more goshuin... The entrance to the temple gardens was 500 yen for non-student adults, and you could pay 300 yen extra to wander inside the temple itself. I only opted for the gardens, which was nice to see in the snow, especially Sogenchi Teien (Sogen Garden Pond). I'm sure it would be another fun walk in the spring or autumn, when more flowers are in bloom or leaves are falling. Upon exiting, I found the gift shop that did the temple's goshuin for 300 yen. Primary mission here accomplished!


The exit led me back to the main shopping area, which was so much more alive at ~11 a.m. compared to earlier. A man in front of a spice-and-cracker shop was giving away free samples of Kyoto-based furikake on top of rice, and I thought it was delicious. I bought some of that along with some spiced rice crackers.

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Kimono Forest

Then I found the Kimono Forest, which was a small outdoor display of kimono cloth in large tubes, like the nearby bamboo forests, situated around the cablecar station. Many Japanese people were here wearing kimono and taking pictures of themselves. There was also a pretty dragon pond / fountain inside.

Rilakkuma Shop and Cafe

There were so many other tempting shops and restaurants. How does one pick and fit everything in their stomach or not get broke?! But I was determined to get to my most important destination of the day: the Rilakkuma shop and cafe.

This business... it was so hard not to buy everything. I took many pictures. I ended up buying a small towel, a keychain that has a mashup of Rilakkuma and Sumikkogurashi, and a honey-dipped rice cracker with Rilakkuma on the wrapper. Then, since I figured this opportunity was so unique, and there was no line, I had brunch at the cafe, where I had tsukemen with roasted duck, matcha soba noodle, sesame soup, and shredded radish in the shape of Korilakkuma's head; along with a honey-yuzu soda with a marshmallow in the shop of Rilakkuma's head – costing me about $20 USD or 2700 yen. I was happy. By the time I finished at around 12:15 p.m., there was quite a queue of people! I was lucky.

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Shouan-in and other quieter areas

With a few hours left, I decided to chase after a coveted goshuin that was a ~20 minute walk from the cafe. It was well past one of the bamboo forest paths and the main tourist area. On the way, I stumbled upon Rakushisha, a hermitage surrounded by permission trees and once occupied by Mukai Kyorai, the top disciple of the famous poet Matsuo Basho. I was able to snag another goshuin and explore the modest grounds for 300 yen, which had some poetry engraved in stone in the gardens, as well as on scrolls within the house.

Farther ahead was a park with more poetry scattered throughout, and a cemetery... Eventually I came across some winding roads with residential homes and a smattering of shops and temples. As someone from the U.S. who is used to seeing a greater division between residential areas, commercial areas, and religious areas, it was neat to me seeing how interwoven all three of these "worlds" are in Kyoto and much of Japan. Maybe this was more common even in the U.S. back then, in small towns?

Finally, I found Shouan-in, a Buddhist temple that's become famous among goshuin collectors for its unusual and especially elaborate goshuin. Among the other old homes and businesses in the area, as folks on Google maps noted, it is really hard to find for foreigners like me! I was sure I did find it, but then didn't know which door to enter since all of them were closed. Eventually a Japanese visitor came and went into the correct entrance, so I followed suit. The woman inside was nice but, to my surprise, quite busy in what I thought was a remote area. In between her phone calls and other guests, she thoroughly explained to me and the visitor the organization of her different goshuin on display and price points. I picked one with some really cute faces (Jizo?) and a stamp of a rabbit for the Year of the Rabbit. It has by far been my most expensive goshuin at 1000 yen.

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Heading back for an afternoon sleep

It was almost 2 p.m., and I wanted to be home by 3 to rest for night stuff; plus I was quite tired. I walked back towards the main road, where I could catch a bus that would take 40 minutes to get me home. I passed at least one or two other large temples, so I noted them for perhaps when I revisit with my partner in the future. I was able to flop onto my bed at around 3:15 p.m., almost immediately falling asleep.

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My first night coding in Japan

I woke up shortly before 8 p.m. to start up my computer to code. It was mentally rough at first, but anyway my computer needed to download a lot of things from upgrading my OS version earlier. Thankfully my secure connects worked smoothly and most of the "day" was quiet, with one fun meeting with my teammates. I shut things off at around 5 a.m.

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Re-learning how to eat at a gyudon chain

I was also able to catch a late dinner at Matsuya, a fast food chain restaurant that serves donburi and similar dishes and was just a 5-minute walk from my place. I used to eat at these kinds of restaurants a lot as a study abroad student because they're so cheap and tasty. My dinner of gyudon with lots of green onion, an egg, and tofu miso was only 510 yen, or $3.80 USD, and it literally took a minute or less to come out after I ordered from the vending machine and got a cup of water from the water/tea dispenser. Granted, this one other customer and I were the only customers there at 11:15 p.m., with the restaurant closing at 12 a.m. I was glad that other person was there so I could observe them getting their food from the front and bringing their empty dishes back when they were done; compared to other restaurants where you leave your dishes on the table to be cleaned up by staff.

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