OCTOBER 2nd 2019: We started this trip with the idea of seeing more of rural Japan and venturing into previously untapped areas. Now, with the Olympics in Japan in 2020 everything is geared towards ensuring visitors see and do it all! We heard about a wild river trip through the hills of west Kyoto and at the same time we could see the famous Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama.
We had to get to the town of Kameoka and this we did by taking a local JR train and then we found a local bus which took us to the departure point for the boats. The boats depart hourly and take 20 passengers – we found that they departed when full and within the half hour we were aboard a small wooden traditional flat bottomed boat which was steered by three boatmen with bamboo poles and oars.
The ride takes about two hours and is around 16 kilometres along the Hozu river. Beautiful mountains line the river banks and the colours were just turning autumn red which made a simply beautiful landscape.
Eagles, cormorants and kingfishers were abundant and there were sections of the river that were calm and others that were quite thrilling with strong currents and shallow water over rocks – rather like white water rafting!
It was quiet and so peaceful and we saw small temples and little settlements along the way.
Finally we reached Arashiyama and the Togetsukyo Bridge. This region has been designated by the Japanese Government as a Place of Scenic Beauty. We farewelled our crew who were smiling and so helpful and in spite of language problems we managed to learn a lot about life on the river and the people who live as they have done for hundreds of years.
Arashiyama is known for the Bamboo Grove and hundreds of tourists visit each year. It was a bit of a shock to find lots of people wandering in the small village – having spent two hours in peaceful solitude on the river – but we found a small restaurant for lunch and then made our way to the Bamboo. It was the biggest disappointment – too many people and nothing much to see or experience because of the crowds so we left fairly soon! It was impossible to get near the temple or to hear the legends of the place – so I guess we just have to imagine what happened in the past!