Spring in Japan – day 3

Today was probably a taste of things to come now we’re in Hanami season; as we ventured out of Osaka to the outskirts of Kyoto to visit the lovely little town of Arashiyama there were crowds everywhere!

Ive been to Arashiyama everytime I’ve been in Japan, apart from last year, so I know the area well, but I had no idea whether the blossoms would transform the town in the same way they do elsewhere else.

I needn’t have worried because by the time the local train from Katsura had pulled into the tiny station it was clear that it’s another great location to see and photograph the blossoms at full bloom. Even the platform was filled with passengers taking photos of the trees which lined the outside of the station!

The town itself was the busiest I’ve ever seen it. As we made our way down to the river we even came across people setting up for picnics under the blossoms, despite it only being 10am in the morning! Many of them were still there when we returned later in the day!

First stop was the “kimono forest” a place I’d heard of before but never visited. The “forest” comprises of around 600 two metre high tubes, each filled with a brightly coloured kimono of different design. Apparently it’s best to visit around dusk as the tubes are all illuminated from within but it’s still a nice place to visit in the early morning.

After the kimono and a quick snack of skewered chicken with a spicy Japanese sauce we were off towards the Bamboo groves, swept along by a seemingly endless flow of people photographing trees, taking selfies and generally enjoying the views.

Eventually we reached the Bamboo groves and as expected they were jam-packed full of visitors.

The bamboo forest itself wasn’t really any different than on previous visits but with the absence of low hanging giant tree spiders and the occasional glimpse of brightly coloured cherry blossoms just beyond the Bamboo it was a pleasant walk up to the traditional gardens of Okochi Sanso, despite the crowds.

After a wander around the gardens and a traditional whisked green tea and sweet cake we were off down through the Bamboo again to Tenryu-ji, a world heritage site with a beautiful water garden, traditional temple buildings and shrines.

The temple was so nice with the blossoms in full bloom that I forgot to take any pics with my phone for the blog but i did grab a lot with my camera so look out for these when I get back to Scotland.

After the temple we headed down to the river again and started off along the river path, stopping to watch boats passing and to take photos of the tree lined hills on the opposite side of the river where evergreen trees and maple were mixed with the occasional brightly coloured cherry or Apple blossom tree.

We sat for a while just watching the world go by, snapping images of the passing boats, wildlife and the changing light across on the hillside.

It was a great way to spend an hour or so, before heading back into town for a lunch of breaded chicken with rice, egg and pickled vegetables, miso soup, and a local beer.

Fed and refreshed we set out towards our last stop of the day, the monkey park, which is 500ft up in the mountains above the town. It’s a bit of a hike up, especially after a large lunch and carrying 8kg of heavy camera gear but we reached the top soon enough and it was certainly worth the effort as we were rewarded with some amazing views out over Arashiyama and on towards Kyoto. It was interesting trying to pick out some of the locations in distant Kyoto which we’ll be visiting later in the trip.

We were a little early for new born monkeys which normally arrive in April / May but we did catch a glimpse of what looked like a little one year old amongst the adult Macaque monkeys.

After taking way too many photos of monkey’s we set off once more back down the hill towards the railway and the trip back. The return train from Arashiyama to Katsura was filled to overflowing! It felt like we had to take turns inhaling – the train was so full!

Eventually we all poured out onto the Katsura platform and separated into the Osaka bound and Kyoto bound factions. The trip from Katsura back to Umeda was a lot less busy and with the warm sun and energy levels at a low point after almost 8 miles of walking it was difficult to stay awake as the train gently rocked us back and forth in the late afternoon sun.

Once at Umeda the walk back to the Umeda underground woke us just enough to get us back into another seriously overcrowded underground train for the short trip back to Daikokucho and the apartment.

Tomorrow we’re off to a new location and an old favourite. The former, expo 70 park, is considered the best place in Osaka to see the blossoms at full bloom. I’ve never been, nor have I travelled on the monorail system which is how we will arrive. Should be an interesting trip!

In addition to Expo 70 park, we’ll be revisiting Minoo Park. Again, ive no idea if Minoo has many blossom trees, but this visit is for something more anyway.

We met a lovely man last year who had befriended a wild crow and visits him every day with food which the crow then hides for all the other, more timid, crows. I grabbed a few pics of them together and I’ve included an image of him with his friend the crow in my upcoming exhibition in Glasgow so as a thank you I’ve brought a print of that image with me in the hope we’ll meet him again so that I can give him a copy.

I’ll let you know tomorrow if we manage to catch up with them again! 🙂

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