The bamboo forest in Kyoto was a place I had wanted to go for so many years. A short distance into the Arashiyama area, take a turn up a small unassuming road and there it is, the bamboo forest. A beautiful area, cool in climate with tall shoots. With my slight detour I arrived a little too late to avoid the crowds so getting shots was a little tricky. What I was surprised by is that it’s one single path with a dead end. I had visions of a walk though a forest and you’d come out on the other side of the area, kind of thing but it’s not. It’s just a walkway and then you turn around and go back. Now by all means it’s still beautiful.I think it should definitely be on the list but the Inari Shrine site was even better than I had expected and I though the bamboo forest was going to be a similar experience but maybe there is a difference if you are first on site. So my number one tip is get up early! Although it wasn’t what I expected, I will definitely be back again, it’s really a must see.
You get out of the pretty Arashiyama train station and start walking. This Ghibli like area is beautiful, small roads and neighbourhoods that reflects the serene nature I was about to come upon. The sun was shining, it was warm and I was here to see the bamboo forest.
I didn’t want to take the path everyone was going because when you join a heard you can miss things. I decided to go down a small path and it’s as if this path had it’s own micro climate. It was humid and smelt like a rainforest, it was so peaceful and calm. The Katsura river is still except the boats and ducks that are cutting through the water. Along the bank of the river people are making food to sell, I stood and watched the way they use what’s around them, a small stream of water from the top of the mountain is filtered down to their fish tanks, keeping their fish alive and water in their sinks. It was wonderful. I sat here and ate my breakfast and watched the boats go buy. It’s times like these that it’s great to get lost and go the wrong way because what you can find is wonderful.
I then realised that if I was to ever make the Bamboo forest I needed to go the right way. This means going back along the pretty river and over the Togetsukyō Bridge. This beautiful structure gets you across the river, has the most stunning views and was nicknamed the Moon Crossing Bridge. It’s all very romantic and totally deserved. When you get to the main area of Arasiyama it becomes a lot more busy. There are lots of tourist nicknacks, restaurants and other wonderful finds that you just have to explore for yourself. There are lots of signs alerting you on where to go but what I have found is that if you follow where most of the people are going, they will bring you to the main tourist spot. After I went to the bamboo forest, it was the middle of the day and the sun was getting hot, I walked over the bridge to find people painting by the water. I stopped and watched this older gentleman watercolour the scene. Arashiyama is a place where I felt like I fit, it felt easy and familiar but at the same time so new and exciting.
Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Temple. A beautiful structure gilded to the nines that can pull a crowd from all over the world. This beautiful site has seen a bit of turmoil in it’s day as everything around the pavilion was burnt down in the 1400s after the Onin war. Later in the 1950s, a monk burnt the pavilion to its bones. Today it is fully restored, beautifully kept and rightly so, a world heritage site. It has a little bit of an Ikea vibe to it, by no means does it have meetballs and a desk you assemble yourself but it has a route and you are ushered on through. It is such a stunning area, the whole scene is perfectly manicured. I thought it would be like Plitvice National Park, where you could walk around and then come upon the gloriously gold building but unfortunately it’s not. I visited the area at 11am and there was already quite the queue forming. It only costs 400 yen to enter the site, so its pretty cheap. The gardens around the pavilion are beautiful, there are traditional buildings scattered around the area too and at the end of the walk there is food and stalls with trinkets. I think you have to go see it if you are in Kyoto but don’t expect it to be quiet or a place for a walk because it’s not that kind of place. So put it on the list of places to go!
I didn’t do too much research into the city of Kyoto before I left so I decided to walk and explore. I saw an opening with shops and went in and what I found was magic! One thing I loved about Japan was the fashion, people dress incredibly well, they have great neutral clothes with great fabric and cuts and I wanted everything if I could actually fit/afford them. (Japanese clothes run small for obvious reasons)
Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku Shopping Arcades
There are two covered shopping arcades that run parallel to each other and they have restaurants, shops with clothes, art, furniture, everything you need to window shop and buy everything you need or want. The area also looks great! There are really beautiful shop fronts and little details that looks beautiful.
This narrow food market is incredible, there isn’t any room to move around, there are so many things to look at, smell and all of it looks so fresh! For any foodie, you have to have a look. Even me, the girl who grabs a handful of nuts once in a while when travelling, thought everything looked amazing!
I have been looking into more of the city and I’ve found even more places to see so I will just have to wait till next year to see them.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine. An incredible place that I had wanted to see for many years and I must say it didn’t disappoint. Sitting at the bottom of the Inari mountain starts the two hour meandering path up the mountain to the main shrine 233 meters above sea level. Inari is seen as the patron of business so the gates are donated by businesses for good luck an fortune in its endeavours. It is said that there are over 5,000 torii (gates) along the path which is incredible. As you walk it you don’t even realise how many there are. I did the entire trail and I thought there were hundreds not thousands! These are just some of 40,000 gates all over japan.Although it’s not a particularly strenuous climb the heat makes it more difficult and in Summer months it gets unbearably hot in Japan. In October it was about 24 degrees, which for an Irish girl was hot enough! Bring water as at the top of the mountain I found that I had none left but there are vending machines at the main shrine so you wont shrivel from dehydration. Foxes are seen to be the messengers of the shrine so there are fox statues dotted around the sites. I really feel like this place was a good fit for me because not only are there foxes, my favourite little woodland creature, Inari is the god of rice and I love rice a lot, as in I’d like it for every meal. In all seriousness, this area is beautiful and peaceful, even with the mass of people, it was just so incredible that the first thing I do in Japan is seeing this fantastic site. It doesn’t have closing times and is free to explore. Go early and enjoy this incredible place. I noticed on the way down to the exit there were a lot more people so if you want a selfie with a free path you aren’t going to get it at lunch time. Also as the walk takes 2-3 hours in total go early to make the most of your day!