This is a detailed post of my 2 weeks long solo backpacking trip to Japan. Please see preview and itinerary/index of my complete trip on this post.
Day 3 – Kyoto
A day of Japanese Hospitality
I met Kimie and Misato in a tourist bus on my trip to Thailand last year. We talked about touring in Singapore and Japan. We stayed connect through my Facebook page. So when I finally booked my flight tickets I contacted Kimie to help me out with budget accommodation and local weather information. I heard that many hotels do not have English version websites and they are cheaper than those listed on bookings.com etc. I was constantly bugging Kimie with queries and she patiently helped me in sorting it all out. She also helped me by providing link to some Japanese websites, which in turn helped me in finding information which was not easily available in English websites. I used Google translate plugin with Firefox Mozilla to translate entire webpage in English. But there was a small problem. Kimie understand very little English and I understand not even a single Japanese word! Google translate came to rescue again.
Arashiyama is located on western end of Kyoto. It is actually far from main city and lies on outskirts of Kyoto. I had dedicated this entire day for exploring Arashiyama and nearby temples. I started early for the day and got my Kyoto city bus pass from bus captain for 500Y. I met Kimie near famous Togetsukyo Bridge. So I had the privilege of a local guide today. She had spared few hours to meet me even though she had just returned from Korea a day before. I am thankful to her, for her nice gesture.
As they say pictures may be misleading. I did not find anything good aboutBridge. Perhaps bridge looks more scenic in Falls season. That’s when entire mountainous area of Arashiyama turns red. I could see a few cherry trees here and there. Road leading to Togetsukyo bridge has a nice lieup of cherry trees. Pleasure boats are available for rent on the river. I could see a few couples doing the boat rides.
Tenryuji Temple, one of top 5 Zen temples of Kyoto
Me and Kimie decided to skip Monkey Park as it involved quite a hike and we were least interested in seeing monkeys. We made our way to most popular temple of Arashiyama, Tenryuji Temple. Tenryuji temple is among top five zen temples of Kyoto. Built in 1339 , Tenryuji is honored as a World heritage site.
After paying a toll (Entry fees) of 600Y per person we were allowed entry to the temple. Temple has a large main hall and a nice garden. A typical zen garden with a small pond. Many cherry trees were on bloom and made the entire landscape serene.
The Iconic Bamboo Tunnel
There are two places in Japan which are iconic because both of these places have been made popular by one of more movies. One of them in Tori gates of Fuhimini Inari and other is green Bamboo tunnel of Arashiyama. This was one of the major factor I wanted to visit Arashiyama, inspite of it being on outskirts of Kyoto. Bamboo tunnel can be reached from Tenryuji by a walk of 15 minutes along narrow lanes. A slightly uphill road is characterized by soaring Bamboo trees. Trees are so high that barely any sunlight reaches ground. It is a narrow road but I saw nearby hotels taking sedans through the road. Groove itself was quite crowded. No one to blame though I was visiting the place at most common time. Perhaps staying in Arashiyama is good choice for visiting in early hours or late in day. I could see a few pre-marital shoots going around in the area.
After spending some time in Tenryuji temple we walked to the Jojakkoji temple. Temple charges an entry of 400Y per person and was relatively devoid of tourists. A few minutes into the temple we realized temple like Jokakoji are known for fall season and not cherry blossom. I clicked moss gardens of the temple and decided to chop off the list of temple I had to visit in Arashiyama as these temples are better seen in fall. Landscapes in Japan looks different in different seasons. Some places are know for cherry flowers while other for fall colors. So it is important to know what places to visit when.
Japanese Vegetarian Lunch
Since It was already mid day we decided to have lunch. Kimie suggested a Japanese vegetarian restaurant and I was totally up for the idea. When we reached the restaurant we were informed it had a waiting time of one hour! We decided to make a booking and go out for stroll again. We returned later to had amazing experience in a traditional Japanese restaurant. Thankfully this was the first time I knew the details of the Japanese food I was eating. All dishes were made of tofu. Japanese food is very bland due to low on spices. And all Indian food is spicy and fried, so this was totally a contrast. 🙂
Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street
After a hearty meal, we made our way to Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street. Much of this street has been preserved in the style of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Many of the buildings are traditional machiya (“town houses”) that served as private residences but have since been converted into shops and restaurants.
It was quite a distance but since the way was lined up with small shrines we decided to walk. We both were having a hard time communicating due to language problem but google translate helped quite a lot. Street was lined up with traditional houses and handicraft shops. Street was not crowded with tourist as there is little to see.
I bid goodbye to Kimie as she had a busy schedule for the rest of the day. Interacting with local friends is always informative. And I got to know lot of local info.
It had been a tiring day as it was sunny (though not hot) and involved a lot of walk. But day isn’t over yet. If you want to travel double, you can not get tired. I decided a take a small power break of 30 mins beneath a blooming cherry tree. Securing my camera I dozed off with a 30min timer.