Can you hear it growing? The bamboo, I mean.


Just outside of Kyoto is the picturesque region of Arashiyama. Japan-guide.com says the region is particularly pleasant during the spring Cherry Blossom season, and for autumnal foliage. And I can totally see why. There are a few hills to provide some depth to the horizon, and lots and lots of trees. But the coolest area is the famous bamboo grove, which is commonly used as a backdrop for promotional pictures of Kyoto. The grove is just outside the gates of the Tenryu-ji Temple (which I’ll post about soon), although many tourists skipped the temple and just walked through the bamboo.

Being a bit of a bamboo novice, I was pretty impressed by the growth, although it gets such a glowing write-up in the guidebooks that it’s hard for anything to live up to such high expectations.

Don’t be fooled by the idyllic path – this is actually a busy road! We almost got run over by a taxi,  and then we saw these rickshaws bringing a group of ladies to view the bamboo.  Personally, I think the grove is best viewed on foot,  but I can understand that various means of transport could make the trip more accessible. The rickshaws have a certain rustic charm, but I pretty much abhor the taxis. I was trying to hear the bamboo grow, but I kept getting distracted by the taxi about to roar up my arse!

I did not know that bamboo grew so tall – or that they are fluffy on the top! I’m sure that’s not the correct botanical terminology, but it’s the only adjective I can think of to describe the tops of the trees. It provided lovely shade, while still leaving a view at eye-level through the trunks. I think if I had tons of land and nothing to do with it, other than have a herd of sheep, I wouldn’t mind having my own little bamboo grove. There were lots of people taking pictures, of course, but we also stumbled across this professional photo-shoot. It certainly appeared to be a geisha, but I don’t know enough to know whether she was authentic or just modeling.

I managed to sneak one picture of her as we were walking past, although I think the professional photographers weren’t too happy about it. Apparently the geisha in the Gion District in Kyoto have complained that tourists have become paparazi-like in their intense attempts to capture the geisha – which kind of ruins the whole mystery. I tried to be discreet in snapping my pic, but there were a few women behind us who made no such attempts. They outright asked her to take pictures with them, and she very graciously agreed, although I suspect that behind her make-up she was seething a bit!

The bamboo of Arashiyama is frequently used in publicity pictures for Kyoto, and while it’s certainly beautiful, I didn’t think it was all that and a bag of chips. The many tourists made it difficult to get a good picture, and the car traffic ruins the ambiance. I would be interested to know what it’s like at night – they obviously had lanterns to illuminate the road, and Alex spotted some large spot-lights amid the trees. I bet it would be fairly haunting!

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Posted on 20/12/2011, in travel, Travel to Asia and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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