Peace and quiet amongst the bamboo groves of Arashiyama.

After yesterday’s mass tourism chaos, it was nice to “get away” and have a holiday from our holiday. So we headed up into the hills to the north-west of Kyoto, to Arashiyama (translation = storm mountain). This pleasant, leafy village was where Kyoto’s aristocrats used to retreat to for some R&R, so it seems only fitting that we should go there to do the same!

Arashiyama is just a short train ride from central Kyoto, but seems a world away, with its mountain backdrop, green leafy streets and river-side setting. The best part of our visit was definitely the Torokko Scenic Train. This slow old train winds its way up through the Hozu Valley, alongside the Hozu River (Hozugawa), revealing epic vistas around every bend, and breaking your back in the process. It’s a very scenic ride, but also a VERY rough one – the seats are hard, wooden benches with no allowances made for Western sensibilities at all. Still well worth the trip though; Japanese hills/mountains are really impressive – they’re sooo steep and densely forested, and so GREEN. We just don’t see much of that kind of green at home – the Aussie bush is kind of a dirty greeny-browny-grey at the best of times. Japanese forests are awesomely green at this time of year, with very little undergrowth, lots of leaf litter and numerous rivulets and streams running down the mountain-sides. Very pretty.

The Torokko Scenic Train was very…, well, scenic!

Look at us, riding the train! 

Riding the Torokko Scenic Train up the Hozu Valley.

Following the Hozugawa’s course down the mountain.

After our leisurely start to the day and scenic train ride, we took a stroll through Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves. This bamboo forest covers an area of 16 square kilometres and is quite a spectacular sight. We were very fortunate to have the forest almost entirely to ourselves, with only the sounds of birds as accompaniment for much of our walk. It was nice and cool under the shade of the towering bamboo, making it a lovely way to spend and hour or so…

Bamboo forest of Arashiyama.

This bamboo is very tall.

Note: For those of you at Metagenics who presented Seminar 1 2013, you will recognise this from your presentation no doubt. I was THERE man!

At one point in our walk through the bamboo grove, we weren’t quite sure where we were (not quite LOST, but not quite found either). So we were very happy find a map at the very next intersection of paths…

Yay – a map!

Unfortunately the map was of no use to us as even Shane could not quite interpret the sign…

What the hell does that say??

We did eventually find our way out of the bamboo forest though, at which point it was time for our obligatory temple visit for the day. So off we went to see Tenryu-ji temple. This Zen Buddhist temple was built in the 14th century, originally as the country retreat for the Emperor Kameyama, whose then grandson then converted it to a temple upon his  grandfather’s death in 1339. The gardens here were filled with a huge variety of flowers – more than we’ve seen at any other garden so far. More strolling and relaxing ensued.

Tenryu-ji temple gardens.


Shane contemplates the beauty of the gardens…

Our final stop for the day was the village of Arashiyama itself, where we walked along the banks of the Hozugawa and across the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, had lunch and took a look around the village at all the souvenir shops. An easy day compared to the last couple, an our last in and around Kyoto. Tomorrow we are off to Nagoya!

A kind stranger takes our photo on the Togetsu-kyu bridge.


Arashiyama village – built along the banks of the Hozugawa.


3 replies »

  1. Impressed by the bamboo forests. Maybe Shane has to do a crash course in Japanese Orienteering – are you found yet? Mum & Papi

  2. Yup. Found alright. And capped off an awesome day with a delicious garlic bomb chicken and salad. We should have read the label a little better though – chicken yes. Chicken cartilage. An important little Japanese symbol to remember for next time… Crunchy. Challenging.
    Oh, and to any brave enough to be down here in the comments section, you’ll be pleased to know we’ve mastered the squat toilets. Now we just need to master remembering to bring toilet paper. Can you imagine the panic? Aha japan. Well played again. Awkward conversation 11 with local folk….

  3. Two thoughts (for now): firstly you really have not got with the Japanese photo thing. In my day (yes, many years ago, but I think still relevant to the situation), the Japanese tourists *always* did the little “V” (hand facing forward) sign in photos. There needs to be at least one of the pair of you “turning Japanese” (although not in what I am told is the song-writer’s intent of the lyrics).

    Secondly, and perhaps a little more profoundly, I am very strongly reminded of the mastery of the Japanese over their landscape through the photos you have been taking of the rural idyll that is Japan. From memory the place was vertical one day, and vertiginous the next. And it seemed to be covered in a myriad of vegetation making things impossible to traverse. Yet they have built one of the world’s fastest train systems (not to mention the usual freeways, tunnels and castles) over a seismically volatile, vertically challenging environment. What determination and raw ability.

    Just thinking about how the Sunlander compares…. Oh well.

    Just a thought.

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