25 September 2009

Kyoto Day 5, Arashiyama Bamboo grove

Walking through the bamboo grove

My husband and I had the opportunity to spend five days in Kyoto in May, 2009. This blog post continues my attempt to share some of that journey. Unless noted, we took all the photos, which are just our snapshots, minimally processed.

Following our activities in Ohara, (see Kyoto Day 5, Ohara and indigo dyeing) Jay and I raced back to the hotel, dropped off the scarves we had dyed, and trotted down to the lobby, where I asked a nice desk associate to write in my journal book that we wished to be dropped off near the entrance to the Arashiyama Bamboo grove. She kindly called us a cab, and the black vehicle arrived, shiny and immaculate as always. By this time, we had learned not to touch the rear passenger door, as this door is automated and slides open by itself. We showed the driver, in his standard uniform and white gloves, the Japanese instructions. Well, it sort of worked - we got to Arashiyama, anyway, and were dropped off, not near the bamboo grove, but by the picturesque Togetsuo-kyo bridge. Close enough, and probably more convenient for the driver, or perhaps he wanted to ensure we saw this famous bridge.

We walked along the main street in this district, located to the southwest of Kyoto, past many shops selling items for Japanese visitors, to the main gate of the Tenryu-ji temple complex. Knowing that there was an entry to the bamboo grove at the north gate of the temple, and not sure if we could find this entrance from the street (again, not much Western language signage around) we chose to pay the admission fee for the temple, and strolled through the garden. We were on a mission, though, so onto the grove.

Cool and quiet in the shade

Walking through the grove is like being 2" and walking through tall grass. Jay reached over the railing a one point, and pushed one of the tall shoots. It oscillated, like a thick, plucked string, and one second later water droplets, from the leaves far above our heads, rained down. Bamboo dew.

Leaves, way up at the tops of the stalks

Strolling from one end of the grove to the other takes about fifteen to twenty minutes; be sure and complete your stroll by 4 pm if you want to ride the narrow gauge railroad, or Romantic Train, back to town. To get to the station, turn right upon exiting the bamboo grove. Surprisingly, there's little info on the Torokko train, as it is called on the Kyoto map, in the Lonely Planet guide.

Unfortunately, we saw the last train depart as we reached the end of the grove. We visited the station anyway, which was all closed up and with no easy-to-decipher information on scheduling. It was clear enough, though, that the train had stopped running for the day.

Missing the Romantic Train, or Torokko, was bit inconvenient, as the narrow gauge train takes you to Saga Arashiyama, the train station on the JR San-in Sangano Line, which will get you back to downtown Kyoto with the fewest number of transfers. The subway in Kyoto is wonderful but unlike the lines in Boston and New York, where all lines are under the umbrella of one authority, the Kyoto lines are administered by different entities, so it can be more confusing when you transfer from one line to another. For more info on transportation, some nice photos and a map diagram, see http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3912.html
So, we had rather a long walk back through the residential area of Arashiyama, to our train station, but it was worth it to have seen the bamboo. For dinner I introduced DH to the Kuchi-hachi grill restaurant, and then home to pack for our return to the States the next day.

Looking back down the walk through the grove