Day #3 Beautiful Kyoto

We checked out from Ibis Style at 830am, marched towards Shin-Osaka station and took a 30-min express Hikari 514 to reach Kyoto at about 10am.

Kyoto bus terminal conveniently outside Kyoto Station, near Isetan. We squeezed up small buses from here on many occasions.

Our new hotel, APA, located near Kyoto Station, costs S$130 a night. APA is a budget hotel, comparable to Singapore’s Hotel 81 – but with Japanese service standard.

Wasting no time, we set off for Arashiyama (嵐山) or Storm Mountain or what most would simply call ‘Bamboo Forest’

Sharon: “So hungry how to climb mountain? Better eat something first la…”

Eugene, not to lose out and always ready for new challenges, bought a healthy macha ice cream for breakfast.

Arashiyama was a breath of fresh air compared to our last 48 hours in eat-till-you-die Osaka. There was less noise and more green.

Everything here is quietly refreshing and soothing to my eyes. I really (really!) love the scenic beauty. So did many others my age.

Honestly, I can spend a week here doing nothing but explore mountain trails and plants.

Hozu River (保津川 Hozugawa) is a part of Katsura River that flows through Arashiyama. The water is crystal clear and you can see carps swimming freely.

Hozu River Boat Ride. If I remember correctly, it costs ¥3000 per person.

Of course, its a place where I have always longed to bring my wife for a merry mountain hike. She loves nature (sometimes), at least fresh mountain air. 

I spotted Eugene hovering like Peter Pan. He was studying the enchanted stream water, flipping cherry blossoms, plants, overturning rocks and examining anything that stirred his imagination.

He was undoubtedly excited. 

This is one of the many species of cherry blossom. They are prevalent at mid and high mountain areas in Arashiyama.

It was Eugene’s first visit. He was pleased to be a part of the awe-inspiring landscape. 

He gave me an enlightened smile before levitating off for scientific exploration and research.

I read somewhere that Arashiyama is the second-most visited attraction in Kyoto. But I have no idea where is the top spot. Anybody knows?

A well composed shot taken by my wife.

Temples and shrines occupy Arashiyama like birds occupy trees, but the star attraction here is the Bamboo Grove, which attracts many tourists. 

Fresh tender maple leaves from high up in the mountains. I overexposed the shot to create a dreamy feel.

To take nice photos of the bamboo grove, without tourists cluttering in the background, I suggest you come no later than 8:30am. 

We arrived late and were ruthlessly photo-bombed by our mainland cousins.

You spotted Sharon? Good. Can you find Eugene?

Because of the crowd I had to force my models to freeze their smiles for a good minute before the path clears.

Inspired by the wonder of mother nature, Prof Eugene gave me a pine cone he found on the ground.

“This is the best-looking cone I could find,” he said, blinking like Doraemon. I inspected it and concurred.

I happily took his gift, put it in my pocket and promised to bring it back to Singapore. 

Before long, I realised i was spending too much time taking photos of plants and flowers, annoying my wife somehow 😁👍🏻

Who’s the naughty bugger? Buy 4D – 4518

Instinctively, i shared with her that I had not seen peddlers on my first visit 2 years ago. This time, they were selling beautiful post cards at ¥100 each. 

There were also performers playing soft gongs. I imagined the rich resonating music pleasing the mountain gods. 

We laughed, sang and danced happily under the clear blue sky for nearly 3 hours before my wife’s baby feet started screaming ‘Ganbatte!’

We rested under a straw hut, had a pleasant conversation with two Taiwanese grandmas, and opted for railway sightseeing via the Sagano Romantic Train. It was to arrive at 3:04pm.

Eugene had his fortune told while waiting for the train. Only 100 Yen! Good fortune? See his cheeky smile ☺

Choose your birthday month and blood type. Very accurate but remember to pay first before reading.

The Sagano train is a charming, nostalgic train that wind its way through the mountains in an mood-lifting 25-min ride.

Waiting for train’s arrival

We saw beautiful scenery as our train cuts through the forested ravine. Check out my earlier post about Arashiyama here

This same view would have worn a magical pink coat during Sakura season.

FYI, the Sagano Romantic Trains do not operate in winter (from Dec 31 to end Feb) as they will be out of service for winter maintenance.

We alighted at Torokko Kameoka Station, the terminal station at the end of the line, walked 5 mins (felt like 15 mins) to Umahori Station and took a JR train back to Kyoto.

The authentic ninja van outside Torokko Kameoka Station

With still hours left before last light, we took a bus to nearby Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺) or Peaceful Dragon Temple –  the most celebrated and famous garden in Japan’s (see the green signboard) 

To go to Ryoanji, get off at Ryoanji-michi Station, and take a 10-min walk to the temple.

I like this place too. Its so green! More cherry blossoms and maple trees!

The temple and its gardens are listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

They are constructed from 1488 to 1499. The famous Houjou hall was built in 1606 and it is designated as important cultural property.

The famous rock garden has been set up as the garden of Houjou. The admission fee to this temple is 500 yen.

Tsukubai (蹲踞) wash basin at the entrance of the temple for visitors to purify themselves by the ritual washing of hands and rinsing of the mouth.

The rock garden consists of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss.

An interesting feature of the garden’s design is that from any vantage point at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.

Biggest stone (rock)

I saw many serenity-seeking tourists, mostly Caucasians, quietly enjoying the peace and silence.

Just take some photo first la. Thanks Eu for the photo

I prefer to roam outside and see the greens  😆

Btw, the meaning of stone garden is unclear.  

Some believe that it represents the common theme of a tiger carrying cubs across a pond or of islands in a sea, while others claim that the garden represents an abstract concept like infinity. 

We had to leave early as it started raining. It was beginning to feel chilly too.

We put on our ponchos, ran out and took a JR bus back to Kyoto Station.

My second advice for travelers: Always bring along a poncho whenever and wherever you travel, whether you have an umbrella or not.

We had a memorable and uplifting green adventure in Kyoto, on Day 3 of our travel in the land of the rising sun. 

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment! Look out for my next post!  😀 

Btw Eu, I cannot find the pine cone you gave. I lost it. I think its sitting somewhere inside APA Hotel