It was day 5 of our Japan Adventure. Up until now we’d mainly used the subway to explore Japan. But today Google told us the easiest way to get to Arashiyama was by subway, then change to a bus.
We were a bit confused looking for a place to buy a ticket but we managed to ask someone who told us to get on and pay at the end. It seems every ride on that bus cost the same, correct fare was required for payment. Wow, that bus was so crowded that it made a sardine can look like a 5-star hotel!
We got off the bus at what we thought was the correct stop. Well, almost everyone was piling off the bus here, but it seems we could have waited for the next stop. Then we took a walk over the picturesque Togetsukyo Bridge, only to realise we were meant to be walking in the opposite direction to get to where we wanted to go.
The thing was, it was so beautiful that it wasn’t the wrong stop or the wrong way, it was perfect! If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this trip, it’s that the best adventures happen with only light planning. This gives the adventure a chance to reveal itself in the best possible way, as you will see as this day unfolds. The picture below was taken on the other side of the bridge.
Arashiyama bamboo forest
The real reason for heading to Arashiyama was to see the bamboo grove. The photos on Google show it stunning, imposing and so beautiful you’d almost expect a panda to be sitting there munching on a piece of bamboo. And today we walked into that grove, along with hundreds of other tourists who’d obviously seen those stunning pics too.
We wondered, gazing up, looking left and right, taking a few photos, all the while feeling a little confused. We were trying to feel it, we really were, but then my husband looked at me and said “I don’t get this one.” I had researched and organised this trip and he’d loved everything so far but this one left us both scratching our head.
We walked through the grove and by the time we got to the end we had resigned ourselves to the fact that the online pics were taken very early in the morning when there were no tourists and they had paid a Geisha girl to turn up with her umbrella and pose for the pics… But more on this later.
The bamboo grove is popular with the tourists
An imperial Japanese garden
At the end of the grove a sign for a private Japanese garden caught our eye. Intrigued, we decided to take a look. Okochi Sanso Villa is the former home and garden of the Japanese silent film actor, Okochi Denjiro. He built a tiny Shinto shrine as a place of retreat and solitude, then built his residence overlooking Kyoto and created these beautiful gardens.
Signs guided us along immaculately kept pathways. Amazing views framed the gardens; Kyoto city to one side and the Hozu River and beyond to stunning multi-coloured mountains on the other side. Looking across the river we caught sight of a tiny hut in the distance with Buddhist prayer flags waving in the breeze. We pondered for a moment “how do you get there?” There were no visible roads, just the gorgeous changing colours of a very old forest.
Beyond Denjiro’s home, the winding garden path led us past the shrine, to traditional style buildings (a welcome shelter from the rain) and eventually to the teahouse. Here we were served matcha tea in wabi-sabi style glazed bowls along with a delicious little sweet parcel of goodness. Some say the Y1000 (about AUD12) entry fee is a little high but I say it’s worth every cent (or should that be Yen).
Heading out of the garden, we were back at the end of the bamboo grove. It had started to rain and there were umbrellas of all colours dotting the view, suddenly the bamboo grove took on a new character. I snapped a couple of pics on my phone for Instagram and these turned out to be my favourite photos of the grove.
Path leading to the gardens
The next unexpected gem
We looked around and saw a sign to a railway station and decided to check it out. There was a souvenir shop and food stalls, so we took grabbed an umbrella and a quick snack. We also discovered that the next Sagano Romantic Train was due in half an hour, so we bought tickets and waited.
The train had wooden seats and windows that pulled open at the top. The scenery was nothing short of spectacular, I put my camera in sport mode and started shooting. The train line followed the river which flowed with aqua coloured water. We wound our way through old stone tunnels, across bridges and gorges that looked like something off a film set. Stunning trees with pretty foliage framed the rail line and yes, there were more cherry blossoms.
Two stops later we were at the end of the line. This was truly an unexpected gem for the day. Take a look at the photos below.
A ten-minute walk saw us at the JR station to wait for a train back to Kyoto. We had the carriage almost to ourselves, none of the ‘sardine can’ feeling of our morning bus ride. As we backtracked through some of the gorgeous scenery of our Romantic Train ride we couldn’t help but ponder that the best adventures come from loosely formulated plans.
More happy snaps from our Japan adventure
The picturesque Togetsukyo Bridge
THE BAMBOO GROVE
Colourful umbrellas lifted the vibe in the bamboo grove
The bamboo is framed by a thatch type fence
Okochi Sanso Villa
The temple that started it all
Views across the gardens with Kyoto in the distance
Views across the Hozu River to the little hut beyond
Path leading to the Daijo-kaku building
Morning tea – Japanese style
THE SAGANO ROMANTIC TRAIN
The views take your mind off the wooden seats
Aqua waters in the river below
The train line followed the river
Couldn’t have a day without a cherry blossom photo surely
The JR line rail bridge
So many colours in the landscape
The fields at the end of the train line
Read about the rest of my adventure here
DAY 1 – Cherry blossoms at Osaka Castle
DAY 3 – Umeda Sky Building and Dotonbori
DAY 4 – – Kyoto – Pontocho, Gion District & the best pancake ever
DAY 5 – THIS BLOG – Arashiyama & The Romantic Railway
DAY 6 – COMING SOON – Fushimi Inari & Kyoto Tower
DAY 7 – COMING SOON – Nijo Castle