From my trip diary:
We knew it would be crowded and indeed it was. I thought that we should arrive there on the Randen, so we took the subway to the end of the Tozai Line and then it was just across the street to access the Randen which was founded in 1910 and is the only tram in Kyoto now. There was no place to buy a ticket at the very small station. It turns out it is a flat fee of 210 (in 2016) and you can pay when you get off. Indeed it was packed with city dwellers, but more so tourists. It is just one or two cars and very cute. We arrived at Arashiyama Station where there were hoards of people. I just wanted to get out.
So we crossed the street and started following the crowds to the bamboo forest which was high on my daughter’s list and is very famous. To be honest, I don’t find it all that interesting or attractive and having the hoards of tourists made it even worse. The narrow street was full of people walking and taking photos but cars also came through as well as jinrikusha, which made it so that you always had to be paying attention to something other than the bamboo. We did take all the requisite photos. I’m not sure that it was the best day for photo taking, or maybe it was too early in the day to get the full effect of the sun.
Or maybe I was grouchy and needing breakfast! As we walked we passed many small places for snacks but I needed coffee. Finally we hit gold with a place that had a dango set with coffee. It was delicious! But all I wanted to do was separate from the crowds and I had Adashinonenbutsu on my mind.
On the way there we went into some of the smaller temples that had fewer people. Eventually we were in classy suburbs and green fields and the bulk of the tourists were gone. We passed small shops, so we knew we were still in a tourist area. And we climbed upward and finally reached Adashinonenbutsu which is essentially a graveyard. It has always been special to me both for atmosphere and the admittedly sentimental aspect of it having a festival on the date of my tanjōbi. The grounds were absolutely lovely and the foliage was amongst the best we would see during this trip. Photo ops abounded. I’d say there were less than ten people there and we were able to peacefully enjoy our time. If I had to pick one place to go for Kyoto foliage, I’d pick this place. It’s a bit of a hidden treasure.
We left silently and started to think about lunch. We knew we wanted yudōfu since this area is famous for it. The problem was how to choose the right place. We randomly chose one and had an excellent tofu lunch. It included yudōfu, yuba, some mochi-like item etc.
We chose to sit at a table rather than tatami. We had a view of the garden which was lovely. After we ate I visited the restroom hesitantly because places like this usually had pretty primitive facilities. Again I was pleasantly surprised to find a very clean and high-tech toilet facility. This is the best change I’m enjoying on this trip. It makes me wish that I could see the toilet in my old homestay; I wonder if they have updated.
After lunch we walked back the way we had came and then turned off to go to Tenryuji which is a heritage spot. I did not enjoy it very much because, again, we were immersed in crowds. How does a heritage spot beat out other spots, I wonder? We spent some time there and then exited to the main street of Arashiyama, which again was packed. I thought my daughter should see Togetsukyo since it is one of the sights of Arashiyama. We crossed over it (with the crowds) and spent some time enjoying the beautiful sunny warm day sitting along the riverside—away from most of the crowd.
- Randen – 嵐電 a small tram to Arashiyama
- jinrikusha – 人力車 a tourist gimmick for those who don’t want to walk and would rather ride in a carriage pulled by a real live person.
- tanjōbi – 誕生日 birthday
- yudōfu – 湯豆腐 a simple tofu dish. The quality of the tofu is what makes this dish. It’s all about the tofu.
- yuba – ゆば a soybean product often called tofu skin as it it forms on the top of soy milk during the processing of tofu
- tatami – 畳 bamboo mats