Let’s Go to Arashiyama

Arashiyama. When we started planning for this trip, the wife had already mentioned that we would be going to the Arashiyama bamboo grove. So during the time that I was preparing the itinerary, there was already a place holder for Arashiyama. It’s always a good thing to plan ahead for places that you would expect to be crowded, and Arashiyama is definitely one of those places.

The gardens of Tenryuji
The gardens of Tenryuji

We came to Arashiyama via Saga Arashiyama station on the JR line (Yey! JR Pass covers this). I didn’t really plan the route that well because on the map, it looked so near to the station. Thank you Google Maps! We made our way to the Tenryuji Temple grounds as we were going to use that as the pass through to the bamboo grove. The temple grounds were quite big and we got a bit lost traversing the garden paths. So much so that we didn’t manage to actually go into the temple. We were more nature lovers than temple goers anyway, so you could say that served us just fine. The gardens are impressive. Like most of the landscaped gardens that we have visited in Japan before, the gardens here are beautiful. It seems that they have a knack for picking out which greenery goes with which tree and which flower and which shrub. We could stay there for hours just breathing. And we would have, if not for the incredible number of tourists. And we haven’t even reached the bamboo grove yet. We started getting glimpses of sky high bamboo trees as we were walking along the garden paths. And we knew we were at the end of our temple trail.

Bamboos of Arashiyama
Bamboos of Arashiyama

We exited the temple grounds and followed the directions to the bamboo grove. As we walked along the bamboo grove trail, it was obvious that the path was going to be a bit dark. The weather has not been bright and sunny from the start of the morning after all. But the bamboo grove itself lends its mysterious aura as the wind ruffles the surrounding and you feel the slow swaying of the bamboo trees. Its truly an amazing feeling, albeit fleeting for only a moment as the noise from tourists trespass into your visual and aural periphery. Yes, we knew that Arashiyama would be a tourist hot spot, but we didn’t think it would ruin the experience that much. Oh well. At least we had moments.

Tanukis or Racocon Dogs along the rails
Tanukis or Raccoon Dogs along the rails

Moving on after the required photo taking (and photo bombing), we decided to take the Sagano Scenic Train route towards Torokko Arashiyama where we were planning to take the JR train back to Saga Arashiyama. The Scenic Train wasn’t part of the original plan, but considering we still need to hike all the way to the same train station, we decided to go for it. The Scenic Train takes you across and through the mountain along the Hozugawa river. The natural state of the mountain with the river passing through it is, again, nothing short of beautiful if you love nature. The feeling was again only for several fleeting moments when you can isolate yourself from the tourists. Don’t get me wrong, we were tourists as well, but we were quiet and observant because we wanted to take in what Arashiyama had to offer. But the group of tourists that we chanced upon were noisy and inconsiderate of other travelers. It was like a wet market in the train all the way down to Torokko Arashiyama. Other than that bit with the noisy tourists, Arashiyama gave us a great time.

I should mention that it was raining by the time we reached Torokko Arashiyama. And even then, it was fun. We got lost and we got wet but we got what we came for. We enjoyed our day of travelling. But it wasn’t about to end so soon.

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