Bamboo Forest

We pack our bags in preparation to leave Kyoto and move onto Osaka. I can’t wait to get rid of my hiking boots and other gear after the trek, because right now my bag is packed pretty full.
We have our last tasteless breakfast, and head out to meet Angela in Arashiyama, where there is a bamboo forest. I’ve made it my mission while in Japan to be sure we go see this place after seeing a photo of it a few weeks before we left. Google it, seriously, it looks so cool. I decide to wear running shoes so that I can go for a quick jog through the forest if the opportunity presents itself.

We have to buy train tickets from a machine which I have used before, but have always been able to locate an “English” button on before now. Today there just isn’t one. I hit some buttons hoping to be given more options but I never see anything I can understand. Dad and I both stand at machines trying to figure them out for a few minutes before we decide to just wing it and throw money in the machine. Somehow it kinda works, and while everything else is still in Japanese, the numbers on the screen show up in English; allowing us to buy the right ticket. Sweet! This is a map of where we needed to go (English provided, thank heavens).
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We follow some signs and manage to get on the right train headed towards the transfer station, and then onto the right line to get us to Arashiyama. The train gets packed pretty tightly with people, and when we get to our stop EVERYONE gets off the train. I forgot it was the weekend. Apparently Arashiyama is a pretty popular tourist destination.
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The town is beautiful, and perfectly situated below the mountains and next to a river. Cherry blossom trees are still in bloom and abundant, lining the sides of the river and trailing up into the forest covered mountains. But… I don’t see any bamboo. Hook me up, Arashiyama! Where’s my bamboo forest?! I feel a bit of pressure for it to be awesome, because I’ve told Angela and Dad that we must go. Please exist.

We wander along the riverside and over a bridge to the main part of town which is quaint, but totally blanketed by tourists. We follow a more quiet route that skips around the main street, and takes us up to a UNESCO World Heritage Site Zen Garden. I love UNESCO, their sites are always the bomb. They know what’s good.
Similar to the beautiful gardens at the Silver Temple we saw yesterday, this Zen Garden stretches out over a huge portion of land, and is covered in hundreds of different plants, trees, and rocks. The whole area is centred around a large Koi fish pond and beautiful Buddhist temple.
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I see a couple wearing the strangest, most interesting, and most confusing bags I have ever seen. No words can even describe this, so luckily I snapped a photo.
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I think I could probably write an entirely separate blog dedicated to the fashion I’ve seen thus far in japan.

We follow a walking path through the gardens that loops around the entire grounds, and this is where I see… The Bamboo Forest!.
We have accidentally stumbled upon it, how wonderful!
An exit to the Zen Garden is conveniently located right at the mouth of the forest and I am super pumped to go for a stroll inside. The only downside is the myriad of humans who clearly have also heard about the awesomeness of the bamboo forest, and are all along the pathway taking pictures and therefore, ruining mine. Not to mention disturbing the sort of calmness that comes along with seeing something so beautiful in nature. I can’t go for a jog here! Not very zen at all.
I swear, other tourists are the worst part about being a tourist.
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We follow the pathway for about half a kilometre before it just kinda…ends. That’s it. Fini. Arrigato, thank you for coming. Done. So that’s a little disappointing, but the part of the forest that DOES exist is definitely just as beautiful as I had expected. Bamboo shoots rise up fifty feet in the air and are planted for what looks like miles on either side of the pathway. Every now and then, the sun peeks through the leafy tops of the bamboo trees. It’s fabulous and I’m happy I came, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had imagined.

I’m not sure how exactly, but we find ourselves walking down a small residential side street of Arashiyama. There is a beautiful old house for sale with a cherry blossom tree on the property, and I 20% jokingly/80% seriously tell Dad that we should probably just buy it. He laughs, says no, and takes a picture of it to send to Mom. I think we’re moving to Japan, guys!

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It’s lunch time, so we try to find a restaurant downtown Arashiyama but the crowds are unbelievably large, and everything is full, so we stop for a quick snack at a street vendor selling soba noodles instead. We get on the train and head back towards Kyoto. Angela goes back to her hotel in Osaka, but we plan to meet up with her tonight for dinner.

After picking up our stuff from the hotel, we grab a cab back to the train station and buy a Shinkansen (extra fast) train ticket to Osaka. We board the train in Kyoto at 3:10pm, and arrive in Osaka by 3:25. By other rail transport it would take about 45 minutes to get between the two cities. Incredible!

From Osaka station, we have to get a subway south to the Namba area, where our hotel is located. I look at a map and have it all figured out, but when it comes down to actually finding where we need to go in the station, I’m totally lost. As usual there’s a billion people all moving through the station at once which makes it even harder to get around while we’re carrying all our luggage. I get us
turned around a couple of times just looking for a simple subway stop. We end up walking by a taxi stand on our search, and Dad suggests we just take a cab to our hotel instead. I feel frustrated and defeated, knowing that I really could have figured out how to get to our hotel by subway, but I know he’s right so I get in. What good am I going to be traveling alone when I can’t afford to just hop in a cab when I’m lost?

We arrive at the ever fabulous SwissHotel in the downtown core of Osaka…dressed like homeless people. Other guests around us are checking in while carrying newly purchased Louis Vuitton shopping bags, and we are checking in with our beat up backpacks and wearing jogging gear. Whoops. We get up to our room on the 29th floor where we have an incredible view of the city, (and a pillow menu?) so we just take advantage of a little down time. I take a long shower so I can look a little more SwissHotel-presentable.

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Angela meets us for dinner at the in-house restaurant, SH’UN, where we have a delicious meal consisting of multiple small plates. Most of them are deep fried and served on little tooth picks. Doesn’t sound super elegant…but it it. It’s a fancy restaurant, and the staff are a little too overly accommodating for my liking, but everything we try is delicious!

By the time I get upstairs I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. This is the worlds longest jet-lag.

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