Nov 132005

It’s been a pretty tough week. I’ve had midterms for three different teachers, two of which included 800 word in-class essays all in Japanese. Add that in to the the usual studying, programming, and lifting and you get one tired Justin.

I decided to spend the first half of this beautiful Saturday in Arashiyama relaxing and scouting for Koyo (fall colors).

I’ve most likely said all of this before, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself. I figure the chances that all of my new visitors actually went back and read every old post is slim to none, so a refresher couldn’t hurt every now and then 🙂

Arashiyama is a gorgeous area on the far Western side of Kyoto, resting right at the base of the surrounding hills. Its large river (Katsuragawa), numerous temples and shrines, traditional buildings, and lush natural backdrop make it a favorite location for both tourists and locals. Every once in awhile when I need some time to myself I take an afternoon stroll through one of its sprawling bamboo forests. Arashiyama is the beauty of Kyoto in a nutshell.

It’s not surprising that during the two most popular times to visit – during Koyo (fall) and Sakura (spring) – Arashiyama becomes quite busy. This Saturday was no exception. While in general I really dislike big touristy areas, somehow Arashiyama is different. It’s not full of huge crowds of overweight tourists wearing identical yellow caps following a tourguide with a flag and a megaphone. It’s just couples and families out for a nice stroll by the river, maybe having a little bar-b-que or green tea ice cream cone under some bright red maple leaves.

Within two seconds of pulling up and parking my bike outside of “Sunday’s Sun” restaurant (something similar to Denny’s in the US) I crossed the street and saw a group of three geisha having a picnic on a towel laid out on the riverfront. Right in front of them were ten or so children splashing around in the shallow river. To the left a group of teenagers played leapfrog all the way across the long Togetsukyo Bridge. It was just one of those days that makes you really stop and feel how great it is to be alive.

Then I turned around…BAM! At last I saw what everybody’s been talking about. A glance back to the first picture of my previous post (here) shows what the Arashiyama riverbank looks like during cherry blossoms. Now just imagine all of those purple trees turned bright red instead. I did take some photos of the scene, but since many of the trees have still not completely changed I decided to wait for the full effect before posting.

My planned one-hour outing quickly turned into three before I realized that it was already starting to get dark. That’s the problem with this time of year – even if I get started at noon, by 3:00pm the sun is already so low that it makes half of the photos I’d like to take impossible due to backlight. I rode the day out for as long as I could before saddling up and riding all the way across town to Starbuck’s. One block before arriving, outside of the Kappazushi (conveyor-belt sushi restaurant) on Sanjo-Kawaramachi I coincidentally ran into Chie and Betty on their way back from ceramics class (one of this semester’s other traditional arts courses that I decided to opt out of – because it would require waking up at 7:00 every Saturday morning).

Thus my choice was as follows: On the one hand, I had the opportunity for endless study under the artificial light of a coffee shop. On the other, dinner with two awesome friends and some real-life Japanese practice.


  5 Responses to “First Day of Koyo”

  1. Excellent photos! The difference in camera seems to have changed your photographic eye…for the better. I presume that you went with the real-life Japanese practice?

  2. COOL! Can’t wait to see more pictures

  3. I am trying not to hate you for living in Kyoto. But it’s hard.

  4. I knew it!!I had a feeling you were studying at the Starbucks in either Sanjo or Shijo.Dammit I should’ve gone inside and annoy you.hahaha.

  5. Thanks James 🙂 To be honest the biggest deal for me so far has been the zoom – I can get into a lot more hard-to-reach places that I could never access before (plus a lot of the times I’ll spot something far away that looks like a good op…but it was always inaccessible to my little ultracompact. A problem no more!)

    And yup I went with the real-life practice!

    Miho: You should have! Grrrr…:-P

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