Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 20 – Kyoto)

Thursday, Nov 10 2022 (Day 20)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island, Enoshima Shrine
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hannō
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-2022秋, Moto-Yawata
ට  Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022 – Akasaka, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya Halloween
ට  Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022 – Shinjuku, Sophia University
ට  Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, Kabukichō
ට  Day 13 – Thursday, Nov 03 2022 – Shinjuku Loft
ට  Day 14 – Friday, Nov 04 2022 – Shinjuku, Hanazono/Asakusa Tori no Ichi, Sensōji
ට  Day 15 – Saturday, Nov 05 2022 – Nagano, Zenkōji
ට  Day 16 – Sunday, Nov 06 2022 – Ueda Sanada Matsuri, Ueda City, Sanada Shrine, Nagano
ට  Day 17 – Monday, Nov 07 2022 – Zenkōji, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward
ට  Day 18 – Tuesday, Nov 08 2022 – Otsu, Omi Jingu
ට  Day 19 – Wednesday, Nov 09 2022 – Fushimi Inari, Kasho​ji, Tofukuji, Shōrinji
ට  Day 20 – Thursday, Nov 10 2022 – Ōhara, Sanzenin, Arashiyama (You are here)

As I didn’t make it to Arashiyama yesterday, the plan was to swing by there today. But Akira also had a suggestion — he was headed to Ohara, a small mountain town about 45 minutes north of Kyoto, to a farmer’s market there, and he invited me along in the morning. Apparently there were temples there to visit, but I was also interested in the farmer’s market, as well as seeing a quieter town with less tourists in general (as there was no train there, only bus service from Kyoto), so I jumped at the chance.

But there were two more points of order before we left for Ohara in the morning. The first was breakfast, of course.

And I caught a picture of the signboard of the Higashiyama Unstained Court that so intrigued me too.

Higashiyama is Eastern Mountains and Arashiyama is.. well it’s Storm Mountain, but it’s part of Nishiyama, the western mountain range, and also the basin/valley area next to the mountain itself, where I was headed later on today. Akira explained how Kyoto was surrounded by mountain ranges, with those two to the east and west, and Kitayama (Northern Mountains) to the north. To the south was Osaka. I hadn’t really realized that the two cities were connected to each other. He also said that Kyoto had two rivers that they were very proud of, the Kamogawa or Kamo River to the east (but he kept on calling it Kamogawa River even though -gawa means river) and the Katsura River in the west, and that they eventually merged together down in Osaka.

Anyway, the other point of order was that I went to the post office with his help to send one package back home to Canada, and another one to Mart. He had taken me to buy boxes at a hardware store the morning before, provided tape and scissors, and today he helped me translate what the post office lady was trying to say, although most of the basic steps were fairly obvious since the signs were bilingual.

I did need a local Japanese address as a return address for the label creation process though, which was done on a tablet in the store itself, and I was able to use his address for that. I had filled the box with CDs (that I didn’t mind losing if something went south, since my home isn’t to the south) and a couple books, but I didn’t expect the cost to send this box back to Canada — it took 13,000 yen to send, or somewhere around $120 CAD, and this was because the only shipping option they had to Canada was an expedited EMS one, which the staff member said would take a month or so but which tracking tells me will arrive in 6 days or so. Yipe. I won’t even be home for that. The one to Mart, in Switzerland, cost another 5,000 yen, also way too pricey, but for that one I had an air mail option (and probably a boat one, but who uses boats?), in addition to EMS, I just had no idea that EMS was expedited and more expensive and the staff member that I asked for help for what option to pick to Switzerland said EMS, so EMS it was. That was a much smaller box so it wasn’t as pricey either way.

Akira said that the priciness of the shipping options probably partially came about because of needing to pay international shipping rates using the weak yen. It was still like $168 CAD or so together for the two packages though, but at least I got paid back by Mart for the CDs and his portion of the overpriced shipping, via a pile of Steam gift cards. Hooray! And not having to drag around all that stuff is great (it means I can go gather more loot before I leave, too.)

Ōhara

Anyway, we started out drive to Ōhara. It was a fairly lengthy journey, with lots of nice scenery on the way, though it wasnt easy to take pictures from a moving car.

Like everywhere else, the tree leaves were still starting to turn colour, with some trees fully brilliant, but most of them were still green or the beginning stages of yellow.

He dropped me off at the market as he went to find a place to park, only to come back and say that he’d drop me off at some temples first before actually coming back to buy whatever he wanted to buy. I had assumed I was going shopping with him so I even had a basket ready and all, but the market turned out to be quite tiny anyway compared to what I expected a farmer’s market to be.

The scenery in town was great though. I love seeing mountains and hills in the backdrop of a scene.

Akira drove me up a narrow mountain road (past a number of wandering travellers making their way up legitly) and right up to a temple called Sanzenin, where he dropped me off, and told me that there were three or four temples in the area that I could visit, starting with that one. told me he’d pick me up in two hours from the same spot he dropped me off at.

I found out that the temple was a paid access temple, it cost 700 yen to enter, we had to take our shoes off and carry it with us in a bag through the temple, and no photos were allowed inside the temple, although it seemed that we could take photos of the garden area past the building we walked through. There was also a brochure noting something like 30 or 40 goshuin that we could collect from either the temple or the surrounding area, from special events and such, and then a sign in front of the temple saying which seals/stamps were available today.

This didn’t actually sit well with me, since to go in and get them, one would have to pay the 700 yen fee each time, since different locations within the temple had different seals. I picked up both available ones today, for example, and the right one from the picture below was from the Kyakuden, or guest hall, whereas the left one was from the Kiniro Fudoudou, or the Hall of Golden Acalanatha or something like that. And the sign above this paragraph listing the seals that were available today obviously includes a section with other locations within the temple that were blanked out.

Many other temples do this too, with seasonal and monthly and event-specific stamps and such, but this was the first temple that I saw that actually involved an entry fee to enter. Sure, it was pretty within, but no more prettier than many other temples or random landscape scenes around Japan. The fee was for viewing the building itself and whatever sacred artifacts that they might have had, and there were many places within the self-guided tour where they were trying to push other talismans and souvenirs onto tourists, and even tea that one could buy and sit on a cushion overlooking a garden to drink, but I wonder what the gods, if they were real, would have thought about the monks using their artifacts and holy grounds as a lavish source of income?

At this point, even though I did not take any “illegal” pictures myself, I saw many other tourists doing so and did support them this time — instead of being mad at the tourists for disrespecting the no-photo rules posted around, I was mad at the monks to have the audacity to charge an entry fee and then put up no-photo signs everywhere. it was surprisingly crowded too, with a mix of Japanese and some Chinese tourists, but not many westerners at all. Anyway, here are some “legit” pictures from the place.

And one that I’m not so sure was legit.

I walked around to a couple other temples after this, but found that they all required admission fees of different sizes too, ranging from like 300 yen to 800 yen per, and I flatly refused to pay for any of that garbage. I did pick up one more goshuin from a temple named Shorenin Temple, whose monk seemed a little surprised that I wanted a goshuin (for 300 yen) but didn’t want to actually go into the temple garden and walk around (for another 300 yen) while waiting. I sat on a bench outside and waited instead.

With some extra time, I found my own best experience in Ōhara, which was to wander west and south, away from the temples and the meeting spot, along some quiet country roads and beautiful scenery and villager houses.

It was very nice. I also ran into this quaint little shop.

Bought some purple perilia ice cream from the proprietress,

And sat on a bench next to the store, taking in this view as I ate it,

I think I got closer to enlightenment with this moment than I would have paying 300 yen or 700 yen a pop to those cursed temples.

After that, I went back to our predestined meeting spot to meet Akira there.

Lunch and Arashiyama

To “save time”, Akira brought me to another bento shop along the way back to Kyoto and toward Arashiyama, which involved a drive through the city, from the north end to the southwest end. The charming thing about this shop, named Kitchen Tomato Batake, was that it was a Build Your Own Bento sort of shop — they sold sides à la carte. It was hard to get a clean picture in the car as I ate it on my lap in the back seat, so here are store pictures of what I ended up picking out for myself instead.

Yakisoba Noodles (270 yen):

Nikujaga (meat and potatoes) (370 yen):

Wakadori no Amazuan (Sweet and sour chicken) (235 yen):

There were dozens of other options though. But this was enough, and I chowed down the food long before we arrived at Arashiyama. As per his hospitality thing, Akira told me to leave the bag with the empty boxes in the car and not to worry about it and to go enjoy myself instead — he’d go clear it up for me after he drove home.

He dropped me off near the Arashiyama bridge, with some tips to visit the bridge itself, the nearby Tenryuji Temple, and then a walk through Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. What he didn’t mention (and probably might not have known) is the throng of tourists that this place contained. I got plenty of good pictures of people taking pictures though.

The bridge itself was cool, I know this bridge from anime depictions and it was nice to see it in person. I walked along the riverbank from where Akira dropped me off, to the start of the bridge, crossed it on foot, crossed back, and then continued along the riverbank. There were lots of rickshaw drivers offering personalized rides around the district to tourists too, as well as people in owned or rented kimonos walking around.

Completely by chance, I rounded a corner and found a building called the Saga Arashiyama Museum of Arts and Culture. It cost 900 yen to enter, but this was a museum dedicated to Japanese poetry (a class I had taken earlier in the year) and karuta (the card game in Chihayafuru and the reason I had visited Omi Jingu two days prior). I was dimly aware of the existence of this museum from Chihayafuru research, but hadn’t looked up where exactly it was, so I was happy that it appeared right in front of me.

I took nearly a hundred pictures in here, but will only catalogue the first 6 or so here. I might come back and add the rest sometime during post-trip cleanup, as it was personally interesting to me.

There was also a section where you could leave your own haiku on a board:

They invited submissions, so I submitted a Bad Haiku on one of those strips of orange paper, although I couldn’t put it directly on the board, it went into a box for consideration instead. Mine was:

Alone by myself
Here in a foreign country
What am I doing?

Good times. Maybe they’ll put it up on display.

I went on to Tenryuji Temple, but this was probably the worst and least remembered temple on my trip.

I balked and didn’t even go in once I saw this sign:

The temple cost 800 yen to enter, the garden cost 500 yen, and a side hall with a painting cost another 500 yen. Now we’re DLCing our entrance fees as well. I did pick up a goshuin for 300 yen from the public area here:

But it was more as a memory for how bad and greedy this temple was than anything else. It’s still a memory worth carrying around though.

There were some good picture moments outside the temple, although people tended to fixate on a couple bright trees and were missing the majestic forest, hills, and clouds:

I then went over to the bamboo forest. This was pretty, but there were way too many tourists about too, and by this point in the day I had run out of energy to be around tourists posing for inane pictures.

I struck out away from the tourist area, and away from predatory temple fees, exploring the Saga-Arashiyama area on foot. This, again, was by far the best part of this Arashiyama leg of my trip, and I enjoyed just watching people going about their daily lives and different types of houses. I watched children play in playgrounds, dogs barking furiously at each other from across bungalow walls, and a schoolboy enter and leave his house front gate wide open (likely for his parents car to return home and easily drive in later), and kick his shoes against a wall to knock off any caked dirt on it before heading into his house. Little precious moments like that.

I made a big loop and headed back toward Arashiyama, passing by at a small shrine next to a pond along the way, Mikami Shrine. I decided to get a goshuin from there too to wrap up this Saga-Arashiyama trek.

From here, I walked back to the nearby Saga-Arashiyama Station, and took the JR San’in/Sagano Line back to Kyoto Station where I was to later meet Akira.

Now that I had more space in my bag again, I stopped by to browse another branch of Book-off, a second hand bookstore chain that I had visited a couple times earlier in the trip, and found a few CDs from one of my favourite bands (marble) that I couldn’t resist picking up.

I then went to seek out dinner. For dinner, Akira had suggested that I stop by the JR Kyoto Isetan attached to the JR Kyoto station after 6 pm, as the food section in the basement closed at 7:30 pm (the entire store itself closed at 8 pm nightly). He said I could probably find lots of cheap sushi on sale there among other things since they needed to sell out before closing time. That sounded interesting, so I did so, going down to Basement 2 like he directed, where the floor was roughly divided into half, one half a regular supermarket and the other half a deli section with about two dozen different small stalls.

However, while I did find a couple sushi sections, one on the supermarket side and a small one on the deli side, neither one was discounted at all. A couple of small side dish/bento stalls had discounted their wares for 20% off though, so I ended up buying some stuff from one of them since I had to go meet Akira at the designated meeting spot nearby right after. My dinner ended up looking like this:

Only the rice at the bottom and the tofu on the left were mine, and they cost 894 yen together, which isn’t terrible. The tofu and its sauce were particularly amazing. and a great dip for everything else that we had. The sushi and croquettes were from a convenience store or something that Akira had picked up along the way to picking me up, he offered most of it to me (since he also had inari sushi and bread and other stuff, not pictured) and expressed surprise that I couldn’t find a heavily discounted sushi section. He called me a mystery girl (and joked that the stress from this mystery was shortening his life and he’d come with me tomorrow to look), on top of him calling me sunshine girl in general because it had been sunny through my entire stay in Kyoto and basically every day on my trip so far. Teehee.

Anyway, this day was weird. Whereas every other temple so far that I had been to on the trip so far, including super famous ones like Fushimi Inari Taisha and Sensōji, were free to enter, with optional donation or worship cost (that I often paid), the ones today were all greedy and cost money to enter. I definitely do not recommend either the Ōhara or Arashiyama area temples to anyone. Their surrounding landscapes were great, though.

Shinkansen Running Total

I have a 21-day JR Pass that kicked in on Nov 05 and should last until the end of my trip on Nov 25. It cost $568 CAD, which cost around 61,769.08 yen, as per Google as of the first writing of this section. So I was curious and wanted to keep a running total — was this thing actually worth it?

That’s what I hope to find out with this section. For the full explanation blurb on this, check this corresponding section of the Day 15 blog post.

Trips

ට  Nov 05 2022 – Asama 611 (Tokyo to Nagano) – U: 7810, R: 8340
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Hakutaka 556 (Nagano to Ueda) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Asama 615 (Ueda to Nagano) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Kagayaki 509 (Nagano to Kanazawa) – 8920 (reserved seats only)
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Thunderbird 24 (Kanazawa to Kyoto) – U: 6490, R: 6820
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Kyoto to Otsukyo) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Otsukyo to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Kyoto to Inari) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Inari to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 09 2022 – JR Nara Line (Tofukuji to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 10 2022 – JR Sanin/Sagano Line (Saga-Arashiyama to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)

Running Total

Unreserved: 27,330 yen
Reserved: 30,830 yen

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