Arashiyama is the “one stop shop” of Kyoto sightseeing. Just an hour by bus from central Kyoto it offers souvenir shopping, a bamboo forest, a river and a monkey park. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is free and has a few paths which guide you throughout the small forest. If you take a rickshaw you have access to other paths that are closed to pedestrians. The sound of the bamboo rustling in this forest has been named one of the “100 Soundscapes of Japan” by the Japanese Ministry of Environment.
Outside Bamboo Forest are endless opportunities for shopping and eating, rickshaw rides and boat rides. You could easily spend an entire day in this district.
Across the Oi River is Iwatayama Monkey Park. Monkey Park is a little brutal to walk to in this heat and humidity. In order to get there you have to walk straight up for about 20 minutes, but it is worth it for the view and the access to the monkeys. Japanese Macaque are native to Japan. They are often called snow monkeys since they enjoy sitting in hot springs in winter. The macaques here are wild, so they have open access to the area. They sell apples and peanuts (one per person) which you can feed them from inside the enclosure (the monkeys are on the outside and the humans on the inside. You are not supposed to touch them directly but sometimes they grab the food right from your hand and they have the sweetest almost human touch. They have strict rules about what you can and cannot do. You are not allowed to feed them anything besides the food they sell, you cannot make direct eye contact with them and you cannot get too close. We just let the monkeys do their monkey thing and we did our human thing, enjoying our time observing them in their fairly natural habitat.