Kyoto: Arashiyama, mostly

Another title for this post: Way too many pictures of bamboo.

We slept in today! Boy, did we all need it. Then, we hopped a series of trains to far northwest Kyoto, to an area called Arashiyama. It’s famous for being home to several temples and gardens, as well as the iconic bamboo forest.

Our first stop, because it was almost lunchtime, was at Tenryu-ji temple.


Not only does Tenryu-ji have beautiful gardens, it’s also home to a shojin ryori (Buddhist temple cuisine) restaurant called Shigetsu that I really wanted to try. You eat on tatami mats a very low tables on the floor, and the food is all vegetarian. The set lunch included a hotpot of tofu skin, cabbage, several types of dumpling, and mushrooms cooked in soymilk along with a lot of small side dishes. Sesame tofu, broccolini with a spicy miso sauce, cooked gourd, mochi, a large dumpling made of yam (?) and mushrooms wrapped in tofu skin, rice, pickles, and and and. The hotpot was in a paper dish which cooked over fire! I’ve never seen that before. 


Ami actually got really into this meal, trying lots of new things! She especially enjoyed the peapods and broccolini, and was super excited about the teeny mushrooms served with the yam dumpling. Oh yes, and the dessert strawberries.

After lunch, we explored a little more of the Tenryu-ji gardens.


Ami is LOVING all of the outside time in these gorgeous spaces.


Then, we picked up a soft-serve ice cream cone in yuba flavor! Yuba is a specialty around here – it’s made of the skin that forms when you boil soymilk. This wasn’t my favorite, but Ami really liked it.


And then, it was time to see the attraction that really brought us to this part of town – the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.


This is a quarter-mile path through a thick forest of bamboo. It’s otherworldy! The sounds are like nothing I’m used to, from the creak of the bamboo waving in the wind to the crack as stalks bounce off of each other. The grove was quite crowded today. Apparently today and tomorrow are holidays, so lots of people are on the move.


This didn’t particularly affect our enjoyment, though. One thing we have been amazed by here in Japan is how QUIET everywhere is. Even in places like Tokyo where thousands of people are pressed into a very small space, it’s silent. On busy streets, literally minutes could go by without a single person honking their horn. It’s incredible. So, somehow, even in the midst of a large group of people, we could appreciate the quiet sounds of the bamboo forest. 

And the occasional well-chosen instrument.


There were times when the crowds thinned and we could watch the bamboo sway and the light change.


What a serene space.


At the end of the bamboo path, we stoped for a minute to regroup. Logan and I were discussing our next step, when I turned around to find Ami had become some sort of toddler model. She’s going viral in Japan, folks.


At the top of the bamboo grove pathway is a villa and garden called Okochi-Sanso. This was the private residence of a samurai actor from the early to mid 1900s, and it’s now open to the public. Entrance is kind of expensive, at 1000 yen, but the fee gets you a matcha and sweet as well as a stroll through some seriously stunning gardens with grand vistas.


Ami’s favorite part was carefully picking her way across the paving stones and up and down the narrow stone staircases. I swear her balance and control get better every day! It’s been so wonderful to be with her on this trip. I’m constantly impressed by how well she’s doing learning the rules in a new country. She now thanks people with a sweet “arigato!” and offers up a polite “sumimasen” when we are trying to get through a crowded space.

We walked back through the streets making our way to the nearest train station. The plan was to try to make it to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, to see it in the soft afternoon light.

Access closes at 5, and we made it just in time!


Seeing the late afternoon sun’s glow on the gold leaf of the pavilion was a treat for the eyes. Crowds were thick again, but we were still able to see what we wanted to see.

And throw coins at this, though I’m not sure why. Good luck? Moneymaking endeavor by the temple? We all missed, though Logan had one coin go in and then bounce out!


After Kinkaku-ji, we hopped on a Kyoto city bus (our first!) for a ride across town to Pontocho Alley. This narrow street goes on for blocks and blocks and is lined with restaurants from humble fried noodle stands all the way up to some of the fanciest places in a very fancy city.


Our destination was a chicken-fried steak joint… oops, I mean a katsugyu restuarant. They do fried steaks, sliced and served as set meals with toppings of your choice.


I got mine with daikon radish and ponzu. Logan’s came with a soft-boiled egg for him to mix into a dipping sauce, as well as a curry dip. Katsugyu Pontocho Honten made a GREAT steak. Each is fried for about a minute, so it’s still quite rare inside.


Another great day in the books! We elected to walk back from Pontocho, so we got to the hotel a little late and Ami was EXHAUSTED. She was literally asleep within five minutes of laying down, which never happens. Here’s hoping for a good night’s sleep for everyone!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. emc says:

    Looks beautiful – what an awesome shot of the Golden Palace, too. You guys are baller travelers still. Next one with us please!

    1. Classy Otter says:

      I would love that! Where to?

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