Monday in Kyoto brought us a variety of excursions ranging from a castle to monkeys and cat cafes. Whew. That was a slightly hectic introduction so, allow me to elaborate.
In the morning, the SJMC Japan crew headed out onto the streets of Kyoto for a scenic walk to Nijo Castle. To keep things pretty blunt, I was not quite sure what the significance of this place was, and I was initially just excited to be in the presence of royalty and finally live out my princess dreams. First and foremost, this was not that type of castle, and I later discovered a far deeper meaning behind the prestigiously decorated landmark.
Nijo Castle, in a quick summary I curated while reading numerous plaques throughout the castle, marks the beginning and the end of the shogunate government that set the political tone for Japan for roughly 265 years. The featured image at the top of this post depicts the spectacular Karamon Gate, which leads to Ninomaru Palace, the place where the shogun stayed during his visits to Kyoto.
While this was a nice piece of Japanese history to learn, I have to say the squeaky floorboards throughout the entire castle made it hard to focus on much else. The proper name for these floors is “nightingale floors.” The squeaking sounds we kept hearing were a result of them being constructed specifically so that no one could sneak through the castle undetected.
Pictures and videos were prohibited inside the castle, however, I managed to capture an audio snippet of the floorboards to put to rest any suspicions there might be about us just hearing things.
Alright, pencils down. That concludes my lecture on Japanese history for the day. 😉
Cute animal overload
Disclaimer: If you haven’t already been wishing you were here with us, you will after this.
Everyone went their separate ways upon leaving Nijo Castle. I’m really fighting the urge to use the phrase “monkeying around” somewhere in this because a group of us ended up at Iwatayama Monkey Park in Arashiyama. For lack of a better description, this was the cutest thing ever.
After a short (depending on whom you ask) hike up the side of a mountain, we had the chance to be in the mix of wild macaques roaming freely. The neatest part of this experience, to me, was that we were in their house. This was not anything close to your local zoo. In fact, there is a cage-like structure set up for visitors to buy food and feed the monkeys from inside of it. We got to experience what it was like to be on the other side of the cage, and, if you ask me, that’s exactly how it should be.
Not your average cafés
Other students got their own cute animal fix by visiting Kyoto’s local Mameshiba Café or the Bengal Cats Forest. You get a café experience complete with an environment full of your preference of dogs, cats, or both if that’s your energy. These unique cafés might be rather simplistic in their description, but are advertised to be therapeutic for visitors and rightfully so.
Another fun fact before I bring this to a close: Grant Langford read a sign at the café indicating that it was the first-ever Bengal cats café in the world.
While our day was filled with ancient history and furry friends, we couldn’t help but anticipate what the next day’s adventures would bring.