Arashiyama - Kyoto

Before I continue on with my snowy holiday in Japan posts, I have one post left from our trip to Koya-san and Kyoto this past November. Our last full day in Kyoto we ventured out to Arashiyama. Can you believe that i've been to Kyoto at least 5 times before and never been to Arashiyama!? How stupid I was to miss this area every time! Arashiyama is gorgeous and a prime spot for viewing the autumn leaves.

As soon as we stepped off the tram I was in love. The station was adorable and we walked straight onto a street full of cute shops and restaurants. We stopped for a croquette from a street stall, then continued on towards the bridge. Arashiyama was CROWDED, and it wasn't even a national holiday or a weekend when we were there. It was crowded for a reason though. The autumn leaves covering the mountain backdrop were stunning and the area is just so cute.

We only spent a half day here because we were tired from non-stop sightseeing for the previous 4 days, and we wandered off track and ended up kind of in the middle of nowhere and hungry with a small child, so ended up heading back into the city around lunch time. Still though, we had a lovely time. We walked by the river, through the park and came across the bamboo grove. 

If you ever find yourself in Kyoto, I definitely recommend taking a day out in Arashiyama. It's not far from the city centre and everything is just so pretty! Also, I wish I had known about it before (it's obvious I didn't do much planning for this, isn't it?), but there's a lovely train ride in Arashiyama, that you can read about on my friend Ashley's blog.


Gorgeous fall colours in Arashiyama, Kyoto

Fall colours in the mountains surrounding Arashyiama

Amazing fall colours in Arashiyama, Kyoto


Bamboo



The famous bamboo grove in Arashiyama, Kyoto
The famous bamboo path

So in love with these colours

The cute Randen tram at Arashiyama, Kyoto
Cute little tram we caught to Arashiyama
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Arashiyama in Kyoto is a must-see when visiting Kyoto. It is a charming little town with lots of traditional shops, restaurants and temples and is the perfect spot for viewing autumn leaves or Cherry blossoms in spring!

Snow Monkeys of Nagano - Half Day Tour!

As you know, if you read my last blog post, I was lucky enough to spend the holidays in the snow in Japan! It was one of my best trips in Japan so far, and i've been thinking about it constantly since I got back to Okinawa. Before I get to my posts about our time staying at Nozawa Onsen, I couldn't resist sharing with you our trip to see the famous snow monkeys of Nagano at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen. I always had the snow monkeys on my Japan bucket list, but I wasn't really too sure what the experience was going to be like in reality. Trust me when I tell you - this is a MUST if you visit Japan in winter!

Perfect snowy day
Because we were staying at Nozawa Onsen, which is only about an hour away, we booked into a half day tour organised by our hotel. It was extremely laid back, and included a stop for 100yen sushi lunch on the way, and was a good amount of time for the trip!

One thing that I think surprised me the most and that people never seem to mention is that seeing the snow monkeys is not the only fabulous thing about visiting the monkey park. One of the highlights for me was the walk there and back. The walk before you actually get to the monkeys is actually 1.6kms each way through forest, and it was magical. Even though we had a 3 kids in tow, it wasn't a difficult walk and everyone enjoyed walking through the trees with the occasional falling of snow.

When we arrived at the actual monkeys, there were a lot of people there, however there was still plenty of room to get good photos and get up close with the monkeys.

All in all, if you are in Japan during the winter and can spare a half day (or a full day from Tokyo), I thoroughly recommend making the trip to see the Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen. Scroll down toward the bottom for my essential tips you need to know before you go!

The 1.6km walk to the snow monkey park in Nagano. It was lovely, but be sure to wear waterproof shoes!
The 1.6 km walk to the snow monkeys





family selfie!
The view from the Snow Monkey Park Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Nagano. This day trip is a must if you are visiting Japan in the winter.
winter wonderland!

Some of the monkeys at the Snow Monkey Park Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Nagano. This day trip is a must if you are visiting Japan in the winter.


Some of the monkeys at the Snow Monkey Park Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Nagano. This day trip is a must if you are visiting Japan in the winter.
Monkey onsen times
Some of the monkeys at the Snow Monkey Park Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Nagano. This day trip is a must if you are visiting Japan in the winter.
Seriously! Look at these guys!

The view from the Snow Monkey Park Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Nagano. This day trip is a must if you are visiting Japan in the winter.
This view is everything!



Some of the monkeys at the Snow Monkey Park Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Nagano. This day trip is a must if you are visiting Japan in the winter.


Some of the monkeys at the Snow Monkey Park Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Nagano. This day trip is a must if you are visiting Japan in the winter.
bathing

Tips for getting the most out of your visit:


  • DO go when there is snow - I honestly don't think the trip would have been anywhere near as beautiful without the snow. Apparently the snow monkeys don't get in the onsen if it's not cold enough, and everything might look a bit bleak without the snow
  • DO wear waterproof shoes - preferably waterproof boots! The walk is long, and wet and muddy. Thankfully we were all wearing waterproof boots, as this was a MUST. They were covered in mud by the time we got back to the bus
  • DO enjoy the walk - 1.6kms sounds like a long walk, but enjoy it! Look up at the trees and appreciate the view. It's truly magical.
  • DO wear plenty of warm clothes - It is really cold, and you want to be comfortable to enjoy the experience. I found Uniqlo Heat Tech layers were amazing.

Have you ever been to see the snow monkeys?





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Some of the monkeys at the Snow Monkey Park Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Nagano. This day trip is a must if you are visiting Japan in the winter.

Happy New Year - Life lately

Happy New Year everyone!

Can you believe it's already 2017!? It's almost 2 years since I moved here to Okinawa.

I thought I would give a brief recap of our holiday season as it was definitely one I'll always remember. at the end of 2015 we went back to Australia for Christmas and New Years with family. It was a great but fairly exhausting trip. This (last) year), when my sister contacted me to say they wanted to come to Japan, we jumped at the chance for our first ever white Christmas, and it was so amazing!

Family selfie at the bottom of Tokyo Sky Tree


A few days before Christmas we flew up to Tokyo. Instead of focusing on presents for G this year, we decided to go with just one present from the mummies, as well as one experience! We dropped our luggage at our AirBnb and headed straight to Tokyo SkyTree.

Nozawa onsen on Christmas day 2016
Amazing snow on Christmas Day at Nozawa Onsen


The next day we hopped on the shinkansen (bullet train) and headed out to meet my sister, her husband and their kids at Nozawa Onsen in Nagano prefecture. We spent 3 days enjoying the snow before heading back to Tokyo for a couple of nights.

Kindle, sun lounge and the beach in Okinawa


We ended the holidays with 6 quiet and relaxing days back in Okinawa. It's actually the most time we have ever had off work in Okinawa, and it was so nice to read books, do some chores and sleep in before returning to work.

I can't wait to share in more detail about our amazing time in the snow over the coming weeks!

What did everyone else get up to over the holidays?

Fushimi Inari Taisha - Kyoto

On our second day in Kyoto, we packed a decent amount in considering we had a 5 year old in tow. After we had had a bit of rest over lunch at Matsuontoko, we hopped on the train to head to Fushimi Inari Taisha. This is one of the most popular shrines in Kyoto, and is known for it's thousands of torii gates that stretch up into the mountain for kilometres.

The shrine is accessed from Fushimi Inari Station or JR Inari station and you just need to follow the many people up the road to the shrine grounds. On the way, there are many many street food stalls selling everything from yakitori, to takoyaki, chocolate covered bananas and candy as well as souvenirs. 

Once we finally made it to the shrine, we walked some of the way up through the torii gates, however after an already busy morning and a tired 5 year old (and mums!) we didn't go all the way up the mountain. We did at one point venture up a precarious looking dirt path that was off to the right of the main torii path, which led to a little wooded shrine area, that was definitely less busy than the main path. This also offered some good views of the torii from above. I would definitely recommend veering off the main path as you go because you will avoid some of the crowds and possibly discover all sorts of gems.

I would love to come back another time and do the whole trek. As you get further along, there are less and less people so you are more likely to get some great shots of the tunnels of torii gates without the hoards of people!

When we were heading back to the station we came across a tiny neighbourhood playground so little G was super happy! It was basically just a slide and a couple of other things, but if you have kids, it's sure to make their day (as well as giving the parents a chance to sit and rest!).

Street food stalls on the walk to Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto
Street food leading up to the temple








The Kitsune (fox) stands guard over the entrance to the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto
Fox

Beautiful Autumn leaves at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto




The famous tunnel of torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto
Tunnel of torii gates

The famous tunnel of torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto





The famous tunnel of torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

The famous tunnel of torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto




These colours!

Me :)



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2 Year Blogiversary!

2 years ago in a frenzy of organising visas, packing the house up and getting organised for our move to Okinawa, I started up this blog! I can't believe i've kept it up for 2 years.

I've gone from just posting random things and photos, and getting barely any views, to over 400 views a day and figuring out how to do nifty things like make graphics for Pinterest!

One of the best things, though to come out of this blog is meeting a lovely bunch of other Bloggers in Okinawa and helping others to discover a bit more about this random island I call home.

I also realise it's been ages since I did a "life lately" update. Basically, I can't believe it's already nearly the end of the year! I feel like this year has absolutely flown by! I'm still trying to finish all my posts about our Koyasan and Kyoto trip last month, and in one week we'll be heading to Tokyo and then Nozawa Onsen for our very first white Christmas, which is extremely exciting for this Australian family! We are also hoping to get to see the snow monkeys while we are there.

If you don't already, you can follow me on Instagram here and here, and like my page on Facebook. Thanks for reading!

Our little Christmas tree.
These guys :)


Guys! Have you seen these Hummingbird Hawk-Moths? I'm obsessed!

My neighbourhood

Apparently these are my 9 most liked photos on Instagram this year