After spending a few days in Kyoto, we have hundreds of pictures of many gorgeous places. Kyoto was really worth waiting and has so many places to see. The city center of Kyoto looks a bit different than many other cities in Japan because it doesn’t have any high buildings. They are prohibited to preserve the cultural heritage and visual consistency. The city center itself doesn’t really look like how we imagined Kyoto: old wooden buildings, temples and geishas. It’s mostly a shopping and business area and the most beautiful places are hiding around the city. You can go around easily by bus but many people told us that renting a bike is a good option for sightseeing. The city is quite flat and has good biking lanes so cycling in Kyoto is safe and convenient. On the second day, the weather was sunny and beautiful so we hopped on bikes and went exploring!
We met a German guy Matthias in our hostel and he recommended us a cheap place to rent bikes. We headed to the rental shop in Aeon shopping mall next to Kyoto station. The bike rent for one day was only 540 yen (5 EUR) which is a very good deal. Other places seemed to have prices starting from 1000 yen. Additionally we paid 3000 yen deposit each. We adjusted the bikes and then we were ready to go. Our destination was Arashiyama area as they were two places that we definitely wanted to see. The area was about 10 kilometers away so it was perfect for a bike trip. The bikes were in a good shape and comfortable to ride. Jarkko had some problems with the seat though and he ended up cycling the seat very low and the knees almost in his ears haha. So if you are a tall person it might not be that easy to find a suitable bike in Japan.
We cruised the roads and the scene changed slowly to suburbs and smaller streets. After three weeks in Japan we have already got used to the left-side traffic so we didn’t have any problems but you need to watch out with this to avoid crashing with other bikes or cars. We cycled along a riverside and it was very nice and peaceful.
When we arrived at Arashiyama station we realized that we are not the only ones there tough. It was a holiday week and the red leaf season in Japan so tourists were everywhere. We skipped visiting the temples in the area. What we actually came to see was the famous bamboo forest. In the pictures it looks like a magical place with huge bamboo trees reaching for the sky around you. In the reality, the path was full of people, but still, the forest was gorgeous.
The second place on our list was on the top of the nearby hill – Iwatayama Monkey Park. The park is inhabited by 170 Japanese snow monkeys. They are kept free in the area but get fed by humans. We parked the bikes and started climbing the hill. The climb was pretty steep but short. After about 15 minutes we reached the top and could see the whole city. And then we saw the first monkey sitting on a tree! We continued to the feeding area and there were so many cute monkeys around the place. Some of them were chilling on the trees, some cleaning each other and some just sitting on the ground and running around. We had never seen monkeys so close so it was very exciting! We even saw some small baby monkeys with their moms. It was prohibited to go closer than three meters to the monkeys or look them in the eyes but many tourists seemed to ignore the rules…
After watching the animals for a while and enjoying the view with gorgeous autumn colors, it was time to get back to our bikes and head back to the city before it was getting dark. On the way back we randomly found a Finnish bakery Leipomo Kiitos so we went in and bought some Finnish dark bread. Unfortunately the Japanese employee didn’t speak English so we couldn’t find out what the story of the place is.
After all the biking we were still super hungry so we went to find a place for dinner in the center. We noticed though that parking the bikes was not a simple task. If you leave your bike in a wrong place, the municipal authorities might pick it up. Getting the bike back costs a lot of money. Finally we found an official parking area next to a train station. We locked the bikes to the stands but apparently the first hour is free because we didn’t need to pay anything in the end. There were no instructions in English but we managed to unlock the bikes somehow. The day on bikes was great and after that we were definitely ready to sleep 🙂 Next day it was time for more sightseeing on the other side of Kyoto.
Bike rental shop that we used:
Aeon Mall Kyoto, floor 2F
〒601-8417 1 Toriiguchi-machi,
Nishikujou, Minamiku, Kyoto-shi