Alone in Kyoto

The title of this blog comes from the wonderful Air song, “Alone in Kyoto”, which I had playing in my head all day last Sunday (27th March).

(NB. Video is not mine, it’s from buggyrun, and I just found it on YouTube.)

This song seems very appropriate for wandering around Arashiyama, as I did. My original plan was to head to Kyoto to see the cherry blossom. However, I was a bit off with my timing and it hadn’t really bloomed yet.

Sakura soon...

I did see a little bit though.

Sakura

It seems there must be lots of different kinds of cherry blossom – it’s hard to know what is cherry blossom and what is plum or some other kind of blossom! (I’m not good with flowers.)

Arashiyama is one of my favourite parts of Kyoto, because it seems to be “real Kyoto”. As I think I may have mentioned before, the first time I ever went to Kyoto I didn’t like it at all and was really disappointed. That was before I discovered Arashiyama. Now I love it here! So, for this brief trip I decided to focus just on Arashiyama. Actually, I downloaded an audio walking tour from this website. The walking tour was very good, and took me to some parts of Arashiyama that I hadn’t seen before. Let me talk you through it…

First, I took the Hankyu line to Hankyu Arashiyama Station. This train was very popular because it was decorated in a really old-fashioned Japanese sort of way:

Hankyu Line Train

☆★☆

Hankyu Line Train

☆★☆

Hankyu Line Train

From the station, I walked to the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, which is the most famous view in Arashiyama. The Togetsu-kyo Bridge crosses the Katsura River and the Oi River. It’s so beautiful, even without the cherry blossom I had hoped for.

Togetsu-kyo Bridge

☆★☆

Katsura River

☆★☆

Katsura River

One thing I love about Arashiyama is that you can see rickshaws everywhere. I heard they’re really expensive, so I’ve never ridden in one, but I love to see them:

Rickshaw

Stop number 2 on the walking tour was the main street by Arashiyama Station. There are a lot of souvenir shops and restaurants around here, and it’s a great place to just look around.

Yatsuhashi shop

☆★☆

Shop

Next, I stopped at Tenryuji (temple).

Tenryu-ji

I had visited before, but still found it an interesting and beautiful place to walk around. Go in the main temple building first, and you can get a ticket for the garden too. It only costs ¥600 total (¥500 for the temple and ¥100 for the garden).

Tenryu-ji

☆★☆

Tenryu-ji

☆★☆

Tenryu-ji

Everyone seemed very excited to see some cherry blossom blooming by the temple:

Everyone loves sakura

☆★☆

Sakura

I like this frog in the garden. I couldn’t get my coin in his tray though.

Tenryu-ji

☆★☆

Tenryu-ji

☆★☆

Tenryu-ji

There’s something very nice about shuffling round the temple in plastic slippers:

Slippers

But I was surprised to see the shoe racks so empty. Even Arashiyama seemed to be a little lacking in tourists that day.

Not many visitors today...

On my way to the next stop I revisited some of my favourite statues in Japan:

Statues

Stop number 4 on my audio walking tour was the Bamboo Path. Again, I had been here before, but it seemed so beautiful this time because it was such a nice sunny day.

Bamboo Path

☆★☆

Bamboo Path

In the middle of the Bamboo Path I stopped at Nonomiya Shrine. My audio guide informed me that this was where young women come to pray for good fortune in marriage. It said “If you’re single, why don’t you pray to the god? You might have a fateful encounter in the near future.” There were in fact a lot of young women or young couples at the shrine, but also tourists and families.

Nonomiya Shrine

☆★☆

Nonomiya Shrine

☆★☆

Nonomiya Shrine

Stop number 6 took me to Rakushisha – a new location for me.

Rakushisha

Rakushisha is a small cottage where, 300 years ago, Kyorai Mukai (an apprentice of Basho) spent the end of his life after he quit being a samurai and turned to haiku poetry. Basho also visited here.

Rakushisha

According to my audio tour, Rakushisha means “a house which drops persimmons from trees” and comes from the story that Mukai woke one morning after a typhoon and found that all the persimmons he had planned to sell had dropped to the ground.

Rakushisha

Walking around the tiny garden I could get a real feeling of how one could easily compose haiku in such a place. If it hadn’t been for the sudden threat of rain, I might have sat down and composed one myself. Instead I wrote one when I got home.

tread my master’s path
where ripe persimmon once fell
haiku in the breeze

Rakushisha

☆★☆

Rakushisha

☆★☆

Rakushisha

On the way to stop number 7 I came across this wonderful pottery shop with a lot of tanuki in the garden!

Lots of Tanuki

I actually didn’t go in Nison-in (temple) which was the 7th stop, as it was starting to get gloomy and trying to rain a little bit.

Nison-in

I decided to move on to Jojakkoji (temple) (stop number 8 on my tour) which sounded more interesting.

Jojakkoji

☆★☆

Jojakkoji

☆★☆

Jojakkoji

☆★☆

Jojakkoji

☆★☆

View from Jojakkoji

This lovely lady tried to sell me some pickles and small fish. I respectfully declined. 😉

Jojakkoji

☆★☆

Jojakkoji

☆★☆

View from Jojakkoji

☆★☆

The last stop on the audio tour was Okochi Sanso, but by this time it was raining a bit and a little chilly, so I decided to head back to the main street. The only thing the walking tour didn’t do was guide you back to the beginning, or back to a station, but it was easy to just follow the bamboo path back to where I had been.

Bamboo path

I was surprised to notice some graffiti on one of the trees:

Bamboo love heart

☆★☆

Bamboo Path

It pays to keep your eyes open when walking around in Japan…

Tiny display & jizo

I swear almost no one noticed this as they passed by.

I was quite worn out after all that walking, and rain was still threatening, so I stopped in a cafe for a little refreshment…

Sakura anmitsu set with matcha

“Sakura Anmitsu Set” – Yum! 😀

After a little souvenir shopping (Hmm… make that a LOT! Kyoto has fabulous souvenirs!), I took the bus back to Kyoto Station. Just before I got on the bus, I spotted this amazing sand sculpture outside Arashiyama Station:

Sand sculpture

…and these beautiful girls posing by the bridge:

Togetsu-kyo Bridge & kimono girls

By the time I got back to Kyoto Station it was just starting to get dark, so I decided to go up Kyoto Tower to see the view. It’s a bit pricey really (¥770), and I’ve done it before, but I’m a sucker for night views from towers. I don’t even know how many times I wandered round the inside of the tower!

View from Kyoto Tower

Finally I walked back to my hotel, Capsule Ryokan, where I settled down for a very comfortable night’s sleep!

You can see the full collection of photos on Flickr as usual.

3 thoughts on “Alone in Kyoto

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