I’m so glad that we didn’t spend our entire time in Tokyo. We may not have had very many days to explore the old capital but we did our best and it was definitely worth the detour. I quickly discovered that my love of train travel, doesn’t entirely extend to bullet trains. I never realized just how hard it is to sit inside something moving so fast with cities unravelling just outside the windows so quickly. Be warned and pack your Gravol.
I never thought it’d be possible to see so many temples in one place so you have to plan your trip accordingly. On the top of my list was to make it to the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama (just a short non bullet train away) It was much smaller than I imagined but there was something just so surreal about it and the zen garden called Hyakka’en at the temple of Tenryuji that led up towards the forest felt like something out of a story book that no photo could do justice to. I was never one for stories of nymphs and elves but you could swear if they lived anywhere, it might have been somewhere in this garden. The day was made even better thanks to the fact that we found bikes for rent just outside the station and used them to meander around the village and along a little seawall where you could rent row boats. Mostly I was just happy to give our feet a much needed rest.
If I had to pick a favourite day in all of Japan I’d have to say it was the one spent wandering on our own around Kyoto following the most interesting streets of the Gion district. We kept happening upon things that just excited our senses and it was all capped off by going back to one of the large temples, following the the sounds of rhythmic drumming in the distance only to find a gathering of people in a large circle. The Japanese were there in their robes and a man sung lyrics over a small microphone and everyone moved around in a beautiful and simple dance. Only a few foreigners were among them, all of who were invited in just as we were, and it was an experience you couldn’t plan. We were told afterward this happens only two days out of the year, so we were very fortunate to stumble upon it the way we did.