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Monday, September 15, 2014

Japan 2013: Kyoto Chapter 3

Journey to Arashiyama - The Hozugawa Expedition

When the sun arose, we began our exciting journey to the charming district of Arashiyama, famed for its meditative bamboo groves and luscious gardens. We could easily have taken a train there, but life is meant to be lived in a more exciting manner. As such, we decided to embark on an exciting two-hour river cruise down the Hozugawa River. Japan.com provides some interesting history about the river.

The Hozugawa River was originally employed to transport logs that were used to build many of Kyoto andOsaka's famous temples and castles. During the Edo Period the river was cleared of obstructions so that boats carrying grain, firewood and other cargo could safely navigate it. Trains and trucks eventually made river transport obsolete, and operations ceased after several hundred years of use. However, the boats were brought back and eventually became popular as a sightseeing attraction.

Taking the scenic boat ride takes a little logistical preparation, but it's nothing too difficult for a young family with a 3/1/2-year-old and a 1/1/2-year old. We first took a train to the JR Kameoka Station, then walked through 10 minutes of breathtakingly scenic countryside, before arriving at our destination, the departure point of the boat cruise. This is a link to a good website which provides details information on the journey.
Our littler boy E sitting comfortably in Daddy's backpack on the trek to the boat pier.
Our little family during one of the calmer moments on the boat ride.
Always lovely to be the only non-locals wherever we go. It was truly a lovely ride with
 mountainous views on both sides!

Arashiyama

It was just about time for lunch when we arrived at the bustling district of Arashiyama. We settled for a delightful soba meal. Just the perfect touch for a summery day.

The soba in Arashiyama is supposed to be famous given that much of the production is from the town itself.
After a comforting lunch it was off to see the sights. First-off, Tenryuji Temple and its lovely gardens. Japan.com describes the famous historical complex in this manner:

Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Takauji dedicated the temple to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had just passed away. The two important historic figures used to be allies until Takauji turned against the emperor in a struggle for supremacy over Japan. By building the temple, Takauji intended to appease the former emperor's spirits.

Tenryuji has many areas for rest and meditation.  
Soaking in the historical architecture and manicured beauty of the complex.
The miniature lake in the gardens where we stopped for a brief rest.
At the northern area of the garden lies a special bamboo grove. Apparently
visitors are meant to sit down, enjoy the bamboo, and meditate on life.
Our older son Z apparently found the process to be rather therapeutic!
After a peaceful time at Tenryuji, it was time to get our feet moving again. We spent a lovely late afternoon wandering through the bamboo-lined forest areas in Arashiyama, making for a most splendid time.
E is clearly snug and comfy in Daddy's backpack.
Z too had a lovely walk among the bamboo. Now here's a child who is at home
in nature!
Daddy stops for a photo for the memories.
Time all but whizzed by as we enjoyed our walk among the bamboos. By the time we got to our final stop for the day, the Okochi Sanso Villa Gardens, it was almost closing time at 5pm. But the gardens are reputed to have certain "royal" qualities, and we knew we couldn't miss it. Japanvisitor.com describes the villa in this manner:
The late great silent movie actor Denjiro Okochi was a major star from the 1920s until his death in 1962. His legacy today however is as much related to his films as to his tremendous villa in western Kyoto. He attained stardom at a young age, and spent an enormous amount of time and money on buidling a spectacular second home in the hills of Arashiyama, Kyoto.
The resulting villa and gardens cover approximately 20 thousand square meters. They include several buildings, lovely gardens, a sweeping view of the entire city of Kyoto, and on the other side a view down into the Hozu River below. Denjiro Okochi took some 30 years in the creation and building of the villa. He planted a garden that highlights all four seasons: cherry blossoms, azaleas, Japanese maple trees, and many pines.
Lovely stone paths dot the villa, and the route around the garden
was extremely delightful!
Lovely views from the villa gardens.
After our lovely walk in the villa gardens (complete with a delicious cup of tea and a sweet), we made our way back to the train station and headed back to Kyoto. There is such a delightful quality about Arashiyama and we wished we could have stayed just one more day...


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