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