Arashiyama is on the far west of Kyoto and is a gem of natural beauty. If you've seen "Memoirs of a Geisha" you've seen a glimpse of the wonder that is Arashiyama. The scene where Chiyo is taken to a party and she is driven up that wondrous alley of bamboo, that is the famous Bamboo Grove. We have visited there twice, yes we loved it that much, the only down side is that its crowded with noisy folks. I don't care about the amount of folks, just their noise level. We wanted to hear the wind blow the bamboo, and only a few times was the noise level low enough to hear that magnificent sound. What does it sound like? Mostly the same as any large grove of leaf trees being ruffled by the wind, but with a softer, murmuring tone.
The Zen temple of Tenryu-ji Temple gardens are beautiful, but honestly, I'd give them a pass in a heart beat to see the gardens at Okochi-Sanso Villa again.
Until Westerners came to Japan, gardens were made to sit in a house with the shoji screens open, sitting on a cushion on the floor, with the beams and pillars framing a view. From each room the view would be slightly different with something special to see from that vantage perspective.
The idea of a garden as a place to walk was completely foreign to the Japanese. Gardens were grown to mimic nature, often in miniature, using large stones to replicate mountains, and beds of stones to bring to mind rivers. With trees and bushes to re-create nature.
A miniature world on an island.
However, Zen gardens had small irregular stepping stones with fragile moss between the stones that won't bear repeated steps without dying back. The idea behind Zen gardens was to unhook from the rigors of the day, and the petty concerns and turn inward to explore larger questions of life and self.
A gate leading to another part of the garden, accessed from the back of the house, is framed to make a view that is tranquil.
Call me crazy, or a heathen but some rocks to me are alive, and this rock captivated me for quite a long while. Even just seeing the pictures of this rock gives me chills and a feeling I have no words to describe.
A fountain made of a hollowed rock and a bamboo pipe. It slowly dripped water into the rock.
Okochi-Sanso Villa embodies both of those concepts of gardens. With every step forward a small change in the vista occurs, making a trip through the garden a slow progression. At the end of the garden we both felt refreshed and calm.
The green isn't grass, but moss.
Unfortunately, many of those from the West, don't understand Japanese gardens, and complain there are no flower beds, or some of the gardens are hundreds of varieties of moss, or the extremely Zen gardens made of large rocks with smaller stones arranged on a base of either raked sand or small gravel.
For a day of fun we went back for a second go at the joys of Arashiyama and rode the scenic train to Kameoka. This was the orginal train connection from Arashiyama and it weaves back and forth, drives through numerous tunnels pushed there by the locomotive. The train sways and is quite noisy, like our trains of yesteryear. The one and only draw back of the train is the wee tiny bench seats. Hubby and I were lodged in like two sardines, and had to synchronize our movements.
A view of the Huza-gawa river from the train.
For the trip back to Arashiyama we took a boat trip back on the Huza-gawa that was filled with scenic wonder. The entire trip of nearly 2 hours we saw only two structures, the river gorge was filled with trees with birds and turtles loitering about.
Towards the end of the boat ride was the most amazing thing I've ever seen on a river. The Japanese call convenience stores "conbini", and they are everywhere and yes, they are down right convenient! The Hozu-gawa river trip ends with a nice break at a conbini boat! They had fruit and drinks, and hot foods cooked right there, on the boat! Our boat and the conbini boat stayed together while the food and money and empty plates were passed back and forth. What a totally awesome idea! Just imagine, there you are, out on a fishing boat, after getting up extra early to beat the traffic with only a quick cup of coffee and a bun or slice of toast and now you're cold and hungry. Wouldn't a hot cup of fresh coffee and a nice hot breakfast snack be wonderful?
Mr. Cook plying his trade.
And the grilled octopus and cuddle fish Greg bought. He said it tasted smokey and was tender and delicious! Or using the Japanese word, "Oishi!"