Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Japan Day 4: Western Kyoto (Arashiyama, Togetsu-kyo Bridge and Bamboo Grove Path)

Arashiyama is located in Western Kyoto, and is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in Japan! Most tour groups would probably make a mad dash through this tranquil place, but taking a slow and leisurely discovery walk is the best way to enjoy the beauty of Arashiyama where you can escape into peaceful forests and bamboo groves.
Since we did a self-guided tour, we were able to take frequent stops to admire the peaceful beauty of the Hozu River, and the gracefulness of the bamboo plants. For me, the first image that comes to mind when I think of Arashiyama is the tall bamboo stalks slightly swaying back and forth.

Our day started at past 9am, inspite of my best intentions to have it start earlier. The travel from Osaka to Kyoto takes about an hour. We got to Arashiyama close to 11am. The place is beautiful. But, sadly, my photos doesn't seem to do it justice.

The weather wasn't very cooperative on our first two days in Kyoto; overcast skies and spring showers, they don't make for nice photographs. I wished we had some sun during our visit, as all my photos seem to have a gray and sad filter.

Arashiyama is full of quaint streets that makes our long walk effortless and such a joy.

Arashiyama, like all of Kyoto, has its fair share of temples. But a temple visit do not hold any spiritual meaning to us and I did not think the kids would be interested in yet another temple, so we just skipped Tenryu-ji.

When we reach the main road, the streets are lined with shophouses selling Japanese crafts and sweets
some matcha mochi
... and stores selling soybean everything. In spite of our best efforts to not get distracted, we can't help but make a few stops along the way to sample the tasty treats.

The heart of Arashiyama centers on Togetsu-kyo Bridge, which is a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing in spring and for maple leaves viewing in autumn.

The Togetsukyo is a bridge across the river. The river shown in the photograph changes names on either side of this bridge. West of the bridge it is the Hozu River and east of the bridge it is the Katsura River. We took a photo with the bridge as a backdrop to remember our trip, and began our stroll through Arashiyama by going to the other side, where there were pleasure boats available for rent on the river.

A photo-op at the opening of the bridge...
The beauty and joy of an independent tour is that your trip can take on whatever path your feet choose. So we followed the beautiful path alongside the river filled with lovely houses and beautiful gardens. This area is quiet and free from the usual crowd of tourist.

Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto City and originally where the nobles built their retreats, Arashiyama is one of the foremost sightseeing areas in Kyoto. The cherry blossom buds are ready to open, and gives the scene a lovely shade of blush to break the monotony of greens.The Hozu River is considered scenic, and is especially popular in the fall, when the Japanese Maple leaves change colors, and in the Spring, when the sakura, or Japanese cherry tree, blooms.

We took our time and sat by the riverside and enjoyed the view, we really felt our body relaxing, especially after the long walk we made.

Of course, picture taking on the side.

We went up a hilly area to get to the famed bamboo path. This is not the usual route tourists take as it involves a tiring uphill climb, but the kids are game for anything that involves letting go of their energy.

We followed the path and entered a thick forested area. The chilly Kyoto weather made even cooler as we got deeper into the area.

And before anyone could say we were lost, we saw a thick grove of bamboo clusters in front of us.

We even saw this couple who was doing a pre-nup photo shoot
It was a wonderful experience to be standing in the middle of a bamboo grove.  I asked the kids to close their eyes and we all took a listening walk. We could almost hear the wind commanding the bamboo leaves to give unison claps each time she blows.

When we came out of the bamboo path, we had a quick lunch at one of the restos which I cannot name because the signage and menu and everything else was in Japanese.:)  But we were all so hungry already, so we all had a quick bite before proceeding to Kinakafuji.

Watch out for the next installment of my Japan post.  It's a post on Kinakafuji, the Golden Pavilion.

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