An early start saw me on the subway at 7.30am heading for Umeda and the Hankyu line express for Kyoto.
Have you ever seen those videos online where japanese train staff are pushing commuters onto already overfilled carriages and thought “that doesn’t really happen”?? Well, It does!
I spent the forty minutes from osaka to Katsura in Kyoto with a local under each arm pit and I’m sure none of us enjoyed the journey…
At Katsura, it was a quick change to a local train (quieter!) for the short trip to Arashiyama.
We don’t have a lot of bamboo groves in Scotland so i had no idea what to expect from an autumn visit to a bamboo forest, but the only big change I saw (which was great as far as I’m concerned) was that the huge population of low hanging giant tree spiders had all but gone!
I realise this might be a problem for locals who are now picking 5 inch spiders out of their bathtubs on a regular basis, but for me this was great news!
After the bamboo groves it was on to Okochi Sanso, the gardens and villa of japanese silent film actor Okochi Denjiro. This place became a favourite during my last trip so I was particularly keen to see it in autumn.
The gardens were stunning in the low morning light and the brilliant red and orange leaves looked incredible against the traditional shrines and villa.
After a walk around the garden I settled down outside a traditional tea house to have some whisked green tea and Japanese cake (which is included in the entry price)
I sat for a while, alone in the garden with my thoughts and memories, sipping the matcha and listening to the chants coming down from the Buddhist temple across the valley. It really is a lovely spot, and I’ll miss it.
After the gardens it was back down through the bamboo, now teeming with tourists, to the zen Buddhist temple of Tenryuji
i sat by the water garden for a while, watching the world go by and the flow of tourists coming in at one end, grabbing a few selfies by the pool, before leaving again at the other without ever stopping to just appreciate the view.
An interesting analogy for life in this modern world I though.
(Also, the irony of hundreds, if not thousands, of selfies an hour taken in a place dedicated to the quest to calm the fire of “ego” and escape the illusion of “self” was not lost on me…)
After a while, I left and followed a path down to the river Katsura which I hadn’t visited before.
If anyone is familiar with the area between Rowerdennan and inversnaid on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond back in Scotland, think of there and you’ll have some idea of the riverside path. Steep wooded hills, crystal clear water, huge boulders strewn across the path and down into the water. Very similar – so I felt very much at home here and stopped for some lunch (fruit mainly, with some gyoza and satsuma flavoured water)
Lunch over, I followed the path back along the river to the “moon crossing bridge” and back to the train for the journey on to Kawaramachi in Kyoto.
In Kyoto I made for Maruyama Park, a place Id kinda visited before but always had the feeling that there was more to it.
I had a lovely couple of hours relaxing, feeding crows and people watching before heading back across the river to Ponchoto, the entertainment district, crammed full of bars, clubs, karaoke and restaurants. At 4pm I was a little early for this famous party district so I concentrated on the photography instead.
Back across the river for sunset, I made my way to Gion for some Meiko and Geisha spotting.
It’s a bit of a waiting game this so I found myself chatting with a group of professional photographers about cameras and exposure settings, etc. they certainly knew their stuff as some of their earlier pics were brilliant.
Suddenly one of them got a tip on the phone and they were off on bikes to investigate.
Left alone for a while I got chatting to a guy who was asking the usual stuff; where are you from, why are you here, are you a photographer, etc (all in perfect English) before suddenly saying “brilliant, will you repeat all this for the camera? It’s for japanese news item” And a tv film crew popped up from nowhere!
Now, most photographers I know are keen to be on one side of the lens only and I’m no exception so the thought of my mug plastered over japanese TV filled me with dread and I politely declined and left! But not before I saw a few Meiko though – look out for those pics when I get back!
I’m off to new locations tomorrow. Kobe (famous for its beef), Himeji (famous for its castle) and Mount Shosha (famous for its role in the film “the last samurai”)
I’ll update you tomorrow on how this goes! 🙂