April in Japan – Kyoto’s Storm Mountains

0320 + 1226 = 0408 Kyoto Arashiyama

This is a blog post about our day on 8 April 2015 in Kyoto, written on 20 March 2015 and 29 December 2016 (again, better late than never… there are two more posts from this trip to come I’m warning you…). 20 March is in black. 29 December is in green italic. If you’d like to read stories from the previous days of the travel, search “April in Japan” on top of my blog.

It was a FREEZING day. Absolutely freezing!

The second day in Kyoto, I’m looking forward to going to Arashiyama. Arashiyama area is large and squeezes in a lot of famous views. We’ll spend most of the day there, walking up and down hills, stepping in and out of temples, shrines and their gardens.

It was surprising how fast the view outside the train changed from grey streets with matchboxes buildings densely piled onto each other to rural scenery of mountains and rivers after we left Kyoto Station. Our destination was Arashiyama, Storm Mountains. According to Wikipedia, Arashiyama is a district on the western outskirts of Kyoto and is a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. There is a lot to see if you do your homework carefully, but we just wandered around most of the day.

One tourist attraction that Chinese tourists rave about is the Sagano Scenic Railway, or Sagano Romantic Train if you go with its official Japanese website. However, tickets went fast and I couldn’t be bothered to book one more thing in advance after sorting out all the flights, trains, buses and accommodation. So we got off at Hozukyo Station (on San’in Sagano line), which was lonely, empty and unmanned. The platforms were on the bridge over the gorge and we were treated with a magnificent view.

Along with the view came the bitter gale, stabbing my hands and face. We saw the Sagano Scenic Railway running along the mountainside. I was not jealous of those people who sat in the open carriages nor the people who were rafting down Hozu River.

Kyoto Arashiyama

Taking the same train one stop back the way we came, we joined in the sea of tourists that flooded into the bamboo forest and nearby shrines. However, the tide didn’t come any higher onto the mountain and it never caught up with us. So after that, people thinned out and we were roaming almost on our own again. I guess Arashiyama was a big place after all.

Kyoto Arashiyama

I read a book about temples in Kyoto. Some of them are free, some are not. The author calls himself “an outsider of Kyoto”. He argues that some gardens look better from outside the gates and walls. There are so many “walled gardens” dotted on the Arashiyama hills, we might go to touristy ones listed in Lonely Planet books, or we might just poke our heads in quickly and move on.

Kyoto Arashiyama

Kyoto is famous for its tofu cuisine, because the city has good quality water. So I’d like to try a tofu restaurant.

We were on the wrong / un-touristy side of the mountain and had hot soup noodles at 12 sharp. Sun finally came through.

Kyoto
A view of Kyoto from Arashiyama

If there’s a bit of time in the afternoon, we might go to Ninna-ji Temple. I learnt about it from the novel Makioka Sisters (see my book review here). The sisters always go to this particular temple to enjoy cherry blossom and have a photo together in spring. This temple is also famous for its late cherry blossom. Since we will be a bit late for Kyoto’s full bloom day, there might be higher chances to see flowers here.

The purple Randen tram linked Arashiyama with Ninna-ji. Outside the entrance to Ninna-ji, my husband had a stinginess attack which reminded me of our visit to Chantilly, France. We went all the way to Chantilly via Paris from England, he refused to pay tickets to go into the Chateau. Since most of the cherry blossoms around Kyoto have faded, I was reluctant to miss the late flowering Omuro Sakura here. We did go in in the end. This probably was the best view of cherry blossom for the whole time we were in Kyoto.

When it gets a bit dark, we’ll move towards Hirano Shrine, which can be reached by the same tram line. Apparently, it’s a quiet place the rest of the year. But during cherry blossom viewing season, there will be a night market under cherry trees.

Kyoto

We were too early for the night market and too late for the cherry blossom, so after a quick wander in Hirano Shrine, we escaped to a random fast food restaurant down the road to warm up. 

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Husband had great fun taking photos in the night streets in Gion, creating ghosty effects while I danced around in circles to keep warm…

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We followed the plan through which was very satisfying ha!

 

 

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