Arashiyama is a small town on the Oi River. Its moon-crossing bridge, Togetsu-kyo, is a beautiful, much-beloved wooden structure. Arishiyama also has Tenryu-ji temple, one of the 14 World Heritage Sites in Kyoto. But that's not why we were there. We came for the monkeys!
From the end of Togetsu-kyo, it's a short walk to the thickly wooded hillside of Arishiyama Wild Monkey Park. For a small fee (600 yen) you enter the park and walk up steep paths until you reach a clearing with a view of the river and town below. Here wild monkeys wait to be fed. At least that was how it was explained to us.
We got off the train at Arishiyama, and while everyone else trooped themselves off to the Togetsu-kyo, we veered off in another direction. Less than 10 minutes' walk from the station and we were at the oddly deserted Monkey Park entrance. Figuring that perhaps we were ahead of the crowds or maybe the locals were too sophisticated to feed wild monkeys (how could that be?) we were pleased. We'd have them all to ourselves!
At the entrance an older fellow shook his head "no" and pointed to a sheet of paper posted at the counter, proudly saying, English! English!? After turning the paper right-side up, we learned that in fall, food in the mountains is so plentiful the monkeys don't come down to mingle. No monkeys!
Let's see. What else didn't we see? We crossed Togetsu-kyo, where each summer people fish by torchlight using trained cormorants. Didn't see that, although there were wild comorants in the river. We saw where the narrow gauge Torroko Train starts its scenic trip into the surrounding mountains, but we didn't see the train. It's also closed for the fall and winter. And although we could visit Tenryu-ji temple, we'd seen enough temples around Kyoto that we were, frankly, templed out and passed up the opportunity.
Still, Arishiyama is a delightful little town. We walked along the riverside, enjoying the activity of sightseeing boats going up and down the river and delighted in the first traces of fall foliage. Small shops selling the same items as all the other small shops around Kyoto caught our eye, as did the four brightly clad geisha posing for a professional photographer. Most of all, we appreciated the sense of being away from a big city after only a 20-minute train ride from central Kyoto. Warning: it may be much more crowded and hectic in other seasons.