The Untold Wonders of Arashiyama

Walk…walk…and walk ..is the locomotion that we did mostly in Japan. The faster the steps, the more tourist sites to visit. At night, I felt my legs cramped and eyes so drowsy. It was hard to resist the calls of human hibernation.

Location: Kyoto, Japan

Accomodation: Court Hotel Kyoto Shijo Central

Buddies: Family (2+)

DSC_0270At 8:30am, we checked out from the hotel. We walked heavily at the street of Karasuma confronting the cool morning breeze of Kyoto. We have the remaining entire day to spend, exploring the best places in Kyoto.

After our breakfast in one of the restaurant, we walked for around 10 minutes to Shijo Omiya station. It is the first station of Keifuku Line which has 12 stopping stations. The last station is situated  in the center of Arashiyama, the western district of Kyoto which is known for its magnificent nature landmarks.

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At Shijo Omiya Station

We boarded the train that had just arrived which only has two rail cars. We positioned ourselves in the last cabin where we saw the driver who greeted every entering passengers using the mouthpiece microphone. As always, the last car of the train will take the lead upon departure. We left the station at 09:35am. The cabin was overcrowded (usual event especially at 1st station) and most of us were standing with minimal movements. The train looks old but it ran smooth. However, I wondered on why the train driver was always using horns and the train’s speed was variable. When I looked back, I whispered to my wife if where is the other rail car? A sole rail car traveling? Its railway is in public road shared with other land vehicles and also following the traffic light signal. I was amazed! It was a privilege that I used the tram which is the only and the last remaining line of trams operating in Kyoto.

We arrived in Arashiyama at 10:10am and its very touristy. Tourists were seen anywhere that made the district lively. I saw the rickshaw which was obviously functional. The runners were very hardworking in pulling their individual carts whoever their passengers are. Something had drawn my attention, some of rickshaw runners were wearing a horse shoe style boots!

We first visited the Bamboo Forest by walking few minutes north from the tram station. The number of bamboos standing individually was outmatched from the flocks of tourist arriving nonstop at the site. It appears that one must have skills in either snatching or sharing a certain place to have a photo souvenir. The conservation of the bamboo forest was applauded and I noticed that those who availed the rickshaw services have a special road in the forest, separately away from the crowded pathway. However, at the end of the pathway, there was a reward waiting for visitors who took the regular path like us! Aside of  having a spot with less crowd, there’s stood a cherry tree at its full blossom. We enjoyed the place unaware that we stuck on the same spot for more than 10 minutes.

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An extraordinary sight of a flowering tree.

At 10:40am, we left the spot and walked back to the groove’s pathway. After 5 minutes, at the middle part of the forest, we found the northern gate of the Tenryu-ji Temple. We paid the entrance fee and astonished on the different trees and flowers planted inside the gated complex.

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Tenryu-ji Temple – known for its amazing zen garden

Tenryu-ji  is a Buddhist temple which is also known as “Temple of the Heavenly Dragon”. The vicinity was founded  in 1339 and included in the UNESCO World of Heritage Site. The beautiful Sogenchi Garden inside the site is one of the oldest zen garden in Japan, maintaining its original landscape since 14th century.  The lush trees, blossoming cherry trees, and unknown plants grown perfectly. It was so romantic and so peaceful by just watching it from the main hall.

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Sogenchi Garden

We exited the temple at 11:30am and headed to Togetsu Bridge, the twin site of the bamboo forest in terms of  popularity among tourists. But instead of returning back to the main road which pointing directly to the bridge, we rerouted to a small street and bumped on the group of stone statues at the road side garden which is called as Arashima Arhat. The statues are in different characters but for me, all looks like monks.

The street led us to the boat pier of Katsura River and saw the famous Togetsu Bridge in the distance. The river looks like a dam because the flow of the water is being controlled. There are boats for rental but it will take more of our limited hours when we are going to cruise the river.

We crossed the river through Togetsu Bridge and transferred to the opposite side of Arashiyama district. The hundred years old bridge is no longer made of pure wood. Its historical existence and current condition requires it to be strong and needs tough supports to maintain its purpose.

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Togetsu Bridge – known for its history

We decided to visit the Monkey Park Iwatayama which was before decided to be optional. After paying the entrance fee, there was a short orientation done by the staff at the holding area of the entrance hall. From there, we hiked uphill for around 30 minutes with one short break in between. My breath was so fast while carrying my son who complained of sudden tiredness at the middle of the inclined pathway.  Seeing the monkeys was not my personal choice but I preferred it for my kid. When we reached at the top at 12:35pm, our sweats was paid with the overlooking view of Arashiyama and the different angle of Kyoto from the height of 160 meters.

The snow monkeys or Japanese macaques roamed freely. They are called snow monkeys because of their ability to withstand a freezing snow for months. The part of the mountain remains their habitat. There is a building on the top where we bought a pack of monkey food which comprises of sliced fruits and nuts. It was also the station where monkeys were fed by hand. Normally, in an ordinary zoo, the feeding is done while the monkeys are inside the cage. That practice is found the opposite on this park! The monkeys are outside hanging on the screen and the tourists handed the foods from inside.

At 12:55pm, we left the mountain and went down with full cautions as the steep was so dangerous. We reached the ground shortly in just 20 minutes. We looked for something to eat and found Togakushi, a small local restaurant serving ramen for lunch.

We finished our lunch at 2pm and walked back to the Togetsu bridge. We bought some souvenirs at the nearby shops before heading to Keifuku Line tram station. We left Arashiyama district at 2:17pm.

(Day 4 of my Japan Visit last April 2018)

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