Nestled between forested mountains towards its north and the Katsura River on its western and southern flanks, Arashimaya, in western Kyoto, is charming, becoming one of the favourite tourist destinations in the city. Dizzyingly, however, we chided ourselves for missing the Arashimaya train station, as it took us through the Kiyotaki Tunnel into the mountains and eventually arriving at a deserted Hazu-kyo Torokko Station; where not even the station master was present. Disembarking, we found ourselves on a suspension bridge where the station stood, directly over a gorge that fell at least one hundred meters below us – the Hazu-kyo Gorge. In a 360 degrees view, not a single residential home could be seen around this natural beauty. The gentle sound of flowing water beneath us soothed our anxieties as we waited for a return trip to Arashimaya.
The Bamboo Grove, an iconic attraction, is worthy of an early morning visit, ahead of the crowds that would stomp through its earthen tracks later in the day. Its serenity is caught in the display of sunlight filtering between its dense foliage rising well beyond 50 metres into the skyline, swayed by the gentle breeze as its rustling leaves producing a music of its own. Time passes as we chose to linger around its bamboo canopy. A visit to the Okoshi-sanso Villa is recommended, just off the Grove. Once the home of a famous actor Okochi Denjiro (1898-1962), the period villa and tea house is situated on the slope of an extensive meandering garden that trailed up a hill to its pinnacle. On a clear day, it offers a resplendent view of Arashimaya below.
Then doubling back and following the downhill trail towards the Katsura River, one will pass the Kameyama Park before the river view comes into focus. Immediately, the manually propelled punts (boats catering for tourist rides upriver) catches one’s eyes, as they are being guided up and down the river. Further downstream, after a minor dam that breaches the River, is the 150 metres wooden Togetsu-kyo Bridge.
Walking into town by noontime, now filled with every description of nationalities, was an adventure to find a place to rest our feet over lunch. The Kimono Forest at the Arashimaya Randen Train Station would have been prettier at night, as the 600 transparent plastic poles with differing kimono fabrics wrapped around inside each would be illuminated, showing off its yuzen kimono fabric. Don’t be deceived by the many kimono-clad ladies walking around, usually Chinese or Koreans dressed up in hired costumes for the day, but nevertheless, a welcomed sight for the touristy photographers.