Well-known for its majestic bamboo forest and beautiful scenery along Togetsukyō Bridge, Arashiyama is the place to be when it comes to one day trip to the outskirts of Kyoto. Spoilt by 3 choices of public transportation (JR, Keifuku Railways – Randen, Hankyu Railways) located at different parts of Arashiyama, we chose JR for its easier accessibility from Kyoto main station. Besides, JR Saga Arashiyama station lies just next to Torokko Saga station, where our Sagano Scenic Railway (嵯峨野観光鉄道) ride began.
Also known as the Sagano Romantic Train, it is a sightseeing train that runs along Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka. Running at a relatively slow pace (taking about 25 minutes to make the 7km journey), passengers get to enjoy the pleasant scenery in old-fashioned train. The cost was fairly expensive at 620 yen per way between Torokko Saga and Torokko Kameoka stations.
Greeted by cool breeze, Hozugawa (保津川), the stunningly blue river, go as far as my eyes can see, stands out in the midst of rocks and forested ravine. The Sakura trees on both side of the railway track have yet to blossom, but I can already imagine its beauty once they do. This ride would be romantic by then, but definitely not now as it was bumpy and dim whenever it enters a tunnel.
Once the passengers reached Torokko Kameoka, the terminal station, there are a few options to go back to Arashiyama; either takes the same sightseeing train back, walk 5 minutes to JR Umahori Station, or to hop on a 2-hour Hozugawa River Cruise (4,100yen/adult).
We took the same sightseeing train again, but this round, is to get off at Torokko Arashiyama station. The 5-minutes walking distance from here to the famous Sagano Bamboo Forest was unbelievably close, as guided by the station map.
These bamboos were stunning, majestic, and breathtaking. Standing alongside with them shows how tiny I am for they go high up, merging their leaves in trying to keep us sheltered from the sky. It is no wonder this is one of the popular attractions of Kyoto which also means that the crowd is inevitable.
To get a clean portrait shot here requires patience as some people tend to pass by. In showing the majestic bamboos, rickshaw runner would often suggest taking photos of their clients from low angle, while asking them to slightly bend down for less distortion. For a more kawaii pose, ladies can opt to place both palms on their chin, forming a V-shape face.
My kimono has its own story to begin with.
Before flying to Japan, we were rather indecisive between renting a full set Kimono from 6,000yen per day, or to buy a secondhand Kimono (or more commonly known as Risaikuru (Recycle) Kimono), which would cost much higher but something to call our own. Our hope fades when some of the websites show the cheapest price for a decent condition silk kimono is no less than 7,000yen, not including inner pieces and other accessories. For better designs, perhaps a 10,000yen note.
Luck has been on our side for this trip as we not only met 2 Maiko at Fushimi Inari Shrine, but also found a stall selling affordable secondhand Kimono. I still find it hard to believe that the price for my love-on-first-sight kimono was a mere 3,000yen. Though not a Hōmongi (訪問着), the most formal Kimono that has colorful pattern running across the seam, this Tsukesage Kimono was good enough. The obi (belt) was another 3,000yen while brand new inner pieces along with obijime (belt string) cost 2,000yen.
Figures aside, the obasan was very patience in explaining her suggestions of accessories; to match small patterns with bigger ones, and to match colors found within the Kimono. When being asked about where I can get dress-up service, she volunteered herself even if I said we will only wear it the next day. We were indebted to her as such dress-up service usually comes with charges knowing that wearing Kimono by self is not possible, let alone to dress up all 5 of us. She too, had a hard time explaining to passersby that these Kimonos were for sale instead of rental as somehow the dress-up session served as demonstration to them.
Having giant feet (US size 10) had set me a rather mission impossible in finding a pair of zōri(sandals) within this Asian-size country. My ideal pair is of course the lacquered and cushioned plastic zōri with floral fabric hanao (thong) that can make walking much easier. On a more practical side, the coarse tatami-like zōri has wider sole. In contrary to popular believe that sticking out the heels might not be the polite thing to do, it is considered elegant in Japan, and hence choosing a size smaller is a common practice; something I learnt from the obasan at Higashiyama store.
In the end I managed to find my ideal cushioned zōri from a rental branch as they accommodate for foreigner size. To sell me the shoes, they had to go through the hassle of making several calls to main store and ask for permission. What can I say; Japanese hospitality is at its best.
Wearing a Kimono during spring was surprisingly warmer than what I would have imagined. Or it could be the double layers of Uniqlo Heat Tech (a must buy) and double layers of Tabi (socks) underneath. Lesson on being lady for a day was well-taught by my Kimono sensei, as the posture has to remain upright all the time, and bigger steps were not even possible. Washroom? Might be an issue.
Our Kimono day did not end there. The celebration of Kimono culture continued as we feast our eyes on the bright Kimono Forest, where 600 illuminated poles of Kimono fabrics strategically lined long pathways of Randen Arashiyama station.
While we were on the way to Arashiyama earlier that day, two Japanese women approached me asking about our Kimonos and were impressed by the bargain price. At the end of our conversation, they thanked us for wearing their culture. Instead, thank you Japan for such splendid piece of art.