Day 180 – Knock on wood

f you have seen the film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, then you have not only seen an amazing film but also will have a feel for the mesmerising other worldly scene that a bamboo forest can create.

The JR Pass pays dividends again as we get to travel for “free” to the far west of the Kyoto area to get to the Arashiyama area…..and once again walk into the masses of Golden Week tourists.

Perhaps we are being a bit of a tourist snob, but whilst undoubtedly spectacular the number of people make it difficult to really appreciate the beauty of what we are seeing.

In fact, a few days earlier having read the Top 25 experiences of Japan in the Lonely Planet our friend Tom took us to his own personal bamboo forest in an attempt to equal their claims and in fact ended up giving an experience that was far better.  We got to experience what felt like a larger and more dense Bamboo forest with the absence of anyone else, and without the restrictions of fences and barriers.  Instead we clambered through his land harvesting bamboo shoots ready for the BBQ later that day.

So Tom 1 : 0 Lonely Planet.  Well done mate!

Though a visit to Arashiyama is not something that we regretted.  It is a beautiful location and in fact a walk and a stop at the Gio-ji temple is worth the trip alone.

A temple hosting the remains of a dancer that after being spurned by her lover dedicated her life to being a nun.  The gardens of which are hidden under the shade of high canopy trees and surrounded by a moss carpet that possesses more shades of green than you thought possible.  With sunshine dappled across the organic carpet you cannot help but be captivated by the sight.

Visually bamboo forests are wonderful.  But they can also provide an audible treat.  With the blowing wind the densely packed trucks are forced into each other and the sound they make due to their hollow nature is musical.  Different heights and diameter of tree create a different sound.  Our wonderfully clear and sunny day means that sadly we are not able to experience the natural version, but walking along tapping your knuckles against the trees creates something that makes me reminisce about my glockenspiel group at school (and yes, I did get bullied for it).

On the way back home we visit another of Kyoto’s famous temples, Fushimi-inari, which is home to the most Shinto gates we have seen.  And we have seen a lot.  A pathway leading for the bad to top of the hill covers 4 km and is lined by over 30,000 of them creating an odd orange tunnel effect.  Odd? Certainly.  Creates some interesting imagery for the end of an interesting day? Absolutely.

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