SAGANO to GINKAKUJI – bamboo groves and silver sands
Wednesday – another early start – meeting in the lobby at 5.30am (yoiks) so that we can head out for the Sagano Bamboo Forest. We have to catch a train from Karasuma – Saiin then another train and tram to Arashiyama.
What a wonderful way to start the day – at least it is not cold. Here we are waiting for the train which is not far away.
One of Japan’s most famous and iconic locations, Sagano has been featured in countless images promoting Japan.
Of course there is the classic postcard shot of the empty road surrounded by towering bamboo and this is the shot we hope to get which means getting up early to avoid the tourists.
When we arrive there are a few photo groups heading in the same direction – hopefully they will be courteous so that everyone can get ‘the shot’. It is near impossible to get a totally person free shot.
As the wind passes through the tightly packed plants, the wood bends and creaks, the leaves rustle and the trunks knock together, creating a peaceful sound like almost nothing else.
I am reminded of the song ‘House of Singing Bamboo’ from the 1950 movie Pagan Love Song with Howard Keel and Esther Williams – but I digress and my imagination must be put back in the box!
Actually- the touristy photography groups are nice and quiet and thoughtful – except for one man – yes there is always one – who just stands in front of everyone and talks to his group in a loud painful voice until someone tells him to be quiet and move. Job done.
Now that it is quiet again, the natural noise of the bamboo is so lovely, in fact, what I discovered when I got back home is that Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has designated the location’s aural pleasures as one of the country’s “100 Soundscapes of Japan.”
This is an initiative designed to encourage the local population to get out and appreciate the country’s acoustic wonders. Somehow I don’t think this would work back home in Oz.
One of the photography groups has brought along a model to pose on the walkway – but it doesn’t do anything for me – maybe different if she was in national dress.
After our series of photos it is time for us to be the pains in everyone’s photos and walk back down the pathway.
I think that everyone has taken ample photos, and I will admit that it is easier walking back down than walking up. Even though it may not look like it, the pathway is on a slight incline and after the walk from the station – mainly uphill – it is good to have a breather.
We are given the choice of free time or visit Ginkakuji – a temple that is also named ‘The Silver Pavilion’. Everyone chose the latter so read on and you will see why it is given that name.
Walking back down towards the station we come across another temple that has some wonderful Autumn leaves overhanging the fence. Looking on google I think it may be the Kegonji Temple. The gates to the temple are closed but we can peer under the large gates and the place does look interesting.
Back at Randen Arahiyama train station we see the Kimono Forest which we will be visiting this evening on our way back to the hotel. This looks fabulous – but you will have to wait until Part 2 of today’s adventure.
Back to the hotel for breakfast and then it’s off to Ginkakuji.
Arriving at Ginkakuji, I am really looking forward to seeing the ‘Seas of Silver Sand’.
HISTORY LESSON: Ginkaku-ji Temple (The Silver Pavilion) is an elegant temple set in beautiful grounds at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. Its grounds are an outstanding example of Japanese landscape architecture. Whether one is sitting on the landing beside the unique sand garden with its 2-metre silver cone which is a tribute to Mt Fuji, or walking the trail and catching glimpses of the Pavilion from different vantage points, one is constantly aware of the lovely details which moves the heart or so they say.
My heart is wondering just what it takes for the gardeners to keep it in such pristine condition. It is amazing how straight and precise the lines are.
Originally designed as a retirement villa for the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490), the temple was modelled on its sister temple Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion). Yet Ginkaku-ji Temple was never plated with silver, and the main temple building remains an unpainted brown and in its way, exemplifies the Japanese idea that something plain can be beautiful. It certainly is that!
Yoshimasa spent much of his retirement here pursuing the arts, including the tea ceremony. The Togu-do building contains within it a tea ceremony room which is thought to have become the prototype for all future tea ceremony rooms. Behind the building is a fresh-water stream where Yoshimasa collected water for his tea.
Speaking of which – time for a drink – alcoholic if you wish – I am not going to give you my thoughts on each photo. There are too many superlatives and you have heard them all before, so just sip away and enjoy the photos as we wander along the pathways.
Our journey is nearly complete – but just a few more photos before we leave – –
Maybe a couple more – our final moments of Autumn colour and the Silver Sands at Ginkakuji before we head back outside to the real world –
Time for something to eat as we head back into the little town.
But before we reach the bottom of the hill we are enticed to try some of these wonderful cream filled cakes – a bit like profiteroles.
They may not look the best but they were delicious. Unfortunately I did not get the ones with the eyes (display only) and the 3 at the front look like platypus to me. Filled with vanilla cream (the yellow ones), green tea cream (the green ones) and a lovely cuppa – yum!
Continuing our walk – at the bottom of the hill is the Philosopher’s Path. The path follows a canal which is lined by hundreds of cherry trees – (unlucky me – no blossoms today). Usually in early April these trees explode with colour, making this one of the city’s most popular viewing spots.
Approximately two kilometres long, the path begins around Ginkakuji and ends in the neighbourhood of Nanzenji.
The path gets its name from Nishida Kitaro, one of Japan’s most famous philosophers, who was said to practice meditation while walking this route on his daily commute to Kyoto University.
I can understand how calming this would be.
Not so calming – time to get back on the trains and head for our hotel to rest up before this afternoon’s adventure.