March 23rd, 2016 – Japan Part Three – The Bamboo Forest & Kyoto

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After some time in Osaka, I made my way to Kyoto, only 56km away.  I was there for 3 days and this was a difficult part of the journey. I arrived with a pulled back and was having difficulty walking so my first day was a write-off in recuperation. As a result, I guess of the last 6 weeks adjusting to an assortment of futon sleeping mats, my rucksack’s weight, and my general rubbish back which just goes randomly now and again…

I did acquire some high-grade magic Japanese medicine which really did the job. My general gesturing to the pharmacist to express back pain was successful.

On day two I was still having difficulty walking but I took it easy and made my way out to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove a short train ride out of the city. This was the first point I really noticed an increase in tourists, and the area around Bamboo Grove was very busy. But it was a beautiful day, with blue skies and fresh air. And under the influence of this unknown medicine, I was feeling rather relaxed.

Seeing bamboo-this tall was amazing. I was hoping to get to walk amongst the bamboo but it was totally fenced off and you followed a path through the grove. There were also thick hedges along the path that was almost at head height, blocking the ground-level view. Which was the main thing I want to see…. but still it was very cool. So many shades of green. I managed to get the camera through the hedge at points and got some of the shots I wanted.  But I’m not sharing them as they are more reference photos for me. But here’s a wee taste of the bamboo…

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

I was pleased to find an artist set up along the grove selling prints of his paintings. I kind of expected this to be a no go in Japan generally, especially in a high-visitor area. I hadn’t even seen any kind of buskers so far, but here was artist Kinji Nakamura, sitting out in the grove with a wee stand of prints. I later found an interview with him on the internet and he’s as sound as you would expect someone that paints forests to be.


Must say 1000 points for location and lifestyle choices. And I really liked his art too, so I bought a couple of his postcards. I’ve done the selling art outside gig, it’s tough. So happy to support a fellow artist living that way. And he certainly looked a happy chap. My walk continued through the grove and up through Kameyama-kōen park. Mind it’s still late January and it’s very much winter scenery. There were a few buds on the trees and a little hint of spring, the remnants of the winter Plum blossom is the most colour I could find.  I made my way up to a viewpoint and then strolled down to the river. After reviewing the photos it seems my wardrobe colour scheme is essentially ‘January’. All the browns.

peter gillies
Katsura River Kyoto
kimono forest 嵐山温泉駅の足湯

I walked along the riverside and then spotted on the map that the Kyoto Art School was out here, so I walked over to that building but sadly there were no exhibitions on and I couldn’t get past the doorman to speak to anyone in the art school for a look around..  I took myself back into town and found the Kimono forest. 嵐山温泉駅の足湯  An inventive display of Kimono designs set in illuminated tubes placed around the Arashiyama train station! On paper, an idea that I think sounds rubbish, but in reality, it really worked. Bit of a design overload!


There was so much attention to detail in pretty much everything. This was in a kind of forecourt of the train station and with shops on the sides, there were a few seating areas. Even a basic seat is pushed that little bit further in design, placement, and lighting.
From here I continued up the main street, and went into a couple of Temple grounds but by this stage I think I was getting ‘Temple tired’.

It’s hard after seeing hundreds of the most impressive and beautiful buildings ever to maintain excitement for it. You turn around and here’s another temple even bigger than the last one! My focus was turned more on the little design features of the buildings and the gardens and plants.


My target destination for the later part of the day was”Osawa Pond” on the far side of town next to the Daikaku-ji Temple. It was nice to be away from the people, and have a little quiet time beside the pond. I was taking some photos of the ducks when I became aware of how many coy carp were in the water. So began the next hour of fish photos…

I did 2 paintings about 3yrs ago of carp swimming in blossom-laden water and it’s a theme I could definitely explore further so I took a zillion photos for reference. That UV filter for the camera did come in useful!!

carp coy fish kyoto

After a long time with the fish, I was pretty tired and made my way back to Kyoto. For just one day and with a hobbled walk I covered a lot of sites.

The next day I woke up late, I think as a result of the mental back medicine and nearly missed breakfast. It was absolutely chucking it down, one of the first days’ I’d seen actual rain! So I decided to just keep my day simple and go to the art gallery. First stop Kyoto-shi Kangyo Museum Miyako Messe. Which was open but deserted and had nothing on. So back out in the rain and round the corner to the National Museum of Modern Art. This was at least open!


My favorite painting in the museum was ‘Fishing’ by Imai Morihiko painted in 1989.

I can’t find any decent images on the internet of this work bar this tiny one. Shame, but it was a beautiful huge painting. I can’t even find much info about the artist!

There wasn’t a special exhibition at this time, just the main collection on show. I had a good look round, the building was impressive and the art excellent. Although not the biggest collection I thought & I found the air in the building really stifling and eventually I had to leave.. It was nice to get some fresh air. The rain was still torrential, I darted across the road to the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art.

Here I found a total surprise exhibit from the SEIAN UNIVERSITY OF ART AND DESIGN, I presume it was a degree show of sorts. First off it was pretty cool that they had secured the main gallery building to have the show in, perhaps it’s standard, perhaps just because it’s January and nothing else is on! Either way, I was happy to look around and see what the painting standard was over here.  Well, I left mighty impressed.

I’m not that keen on taking photos of artists’ work so I didn’t take direct shots and tried to take note of all the names.  Most of the paintings on display were massive. Like MASSIVE massive! Here’s a link to the collection of photos I took. (I managed to find a list of the show prize winners here.)

Well after that day I was shattered. No more art could be appreciated! Perhaps I missed out on a lot to see in Kyoto. I didn’t really explore the city center apart from visiting the art galleries. But I enjoyed what I did see and being aware I was hitting a bit of a ‘travel wall’ at this point I was trying to find a balance in resting, excursions, and what I was doing at all!

The next day I had breakfast and decided to move on from Kyoto. After 6 weeks of moving around I was feeling the financial burn. I made some investigations and managed to sort out 2 options. Working in exchange for room & board at a youth hostel on the coast, or heading up to the alps to work in a bar. This way I could spin out my time without spending so much money every day.

But what to choose? I’ll not lie, the idea of being by the coast freaked me out too much. It was hard enough putting the potential radiation risks away after The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster 5 years ago but being near the coast & the threat of a potential tsunami, well it seemed safer to be in the mountains.

So I packed up and took myself to the train station to head north into the Japanese Alps…..

I’ll leave you with a sleepy cat and join me next time for part 4 adventures in the snow…

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