The most envied neighbour in Arashiyama

Kyoto (Arashiyama and Moss Temple)

We spent 4 of the most comfortable sleeps in Arashiyama, a beautiful suburb—a far cry from the North American definition of that word. Arashiyama is close enough for a daily pilgrimage to Kyoto (via tram) yet tucked-away enough to be a quiet refuge. Kyoto residents are particularly connected to nature and sensitive to seasonal transitions (in everything from cuisine to art) and nowhere is this more apparent than in leafy, unspoilt Arashiyama.

The apartment we rented embodied tradition. Arashiyama Hanare is registered as one of “Kyoto’s important cultural properties”, and was built in 1935 and restored with the help of local artisans using natural materials and traditional techniques. The kitchen sink is stone, one of the owners an ikebana master and did I mention the mini zen garden and hot tub? What more can I say. Pretty much a perfect stay, notwithstanding our check-out: a stressful (but in hindsight hilarious) morning that had Ken biking to an ATM with the landlord’s mother in order to liberate our car from a ruthless parking lot.

The food in the area did not disappoint. We ate a flavourful 3 course yakitori dinner at Kokoro-tori custom prepared for us by the chef, since we were helpless looking at the all-japanese menu, and savoured a french-japanese fusion lunch at Grand Plié.

A short drive away from Arashiyama is Saihō-ji (or “Moss Temple), a Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple that stands on grounds covered in thick, carpet-like moss. It’s a place I’ve heard quite a bit about because they have a unique way of limiting tourism. In order to visit you must write (yep, pen & paper) to the Temple weeks ahead of time—our apartment host helped with this— then prepare for a ritual when you arrive. Each visitor participates in “shakyō”, the copying of a sacred sutra with ink and brush, and engages in a sitting meditation or chant, a process lasting an hour or more.

We came ready to do this, wrists loose but were slightly disheartened when others around us quit mid-way. Resolute to finish, we dipped our brushes in black ink and scribbled undecipherable characters for 45 minutes straight. While I waited for Ken to finish I snuck a few iPhone snaps. “This isn’t a race, it’s an act of piety”, I kept telling myself while relishing the fact that I was done first.

Sunset reflected

Sunset reflected

"Moon Crossing Bridge" over the Ōi River

“Moon Crossing Bridge” over the Ōi River

Ōi River

Ōi River

A rare selfie

A rare selfie

Arashiyama means "Storm Mountain"

Arashiyama means “Storm Mountain”

Reflections in the Ōi River

Reflections in the Ōi River

A not-so-funny joke

A not-so-funny joke

Dusk in Arashiyama

Dusk in Arashiyama

Saihō-ji entrance

Saihō-ji entrance

Copying of the sutra with ink and brush

Copying of the sutra with ink and brush

The infamous moss

The infamous moss

Gardens of the Saihō-ji

Gardens of the Saihō-ji

Twin trees

Twin trees

The gardener

The gardener

Bamboo as high as the eye can see

Bamboo as high as the eye can see

Our Hanare

Our Hanare

 Next time… Hiroshima

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UnaKyoto (Arashiyama and Moss Temple)

Comments

  1. Carol

    No, not funny! I would have been hysterical (not the laughing sense). I like that the temple makes you do all that – so often when we visit another country, we barge into their sacred spaces with no respect to take pictures and gawk (Italy comes to mind). Also, I like the gardener’s shoes.

    1. Author
      Una

      haha, yes. my height-fearing mom was not impressed.
      you’re right… those are some boots, they look super soft, so as not to trample the moss.

    1. Author
      Una

      Slava, hello!
      Thanks for the kind words.
      I followed the link to your site and love your photo work! Maybe there will be a chance to collaborate down the road. (I’m an art director in my day to day life).

      Pozdrav iz Toronta!

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