Sunday, 17 April 2011

Clapping for Koi

We`d decided today was to be another hiking day, this time in Kameoka, which I`d seen described as having `some of the best hiking spots in Kyoto`. To get there, we took a tram to Arashiyama in the west, which is one of Boyf`s favourite places anyway, then it was a short ride on the Romantic Train to Kameoka. It was only when buying tickets (with minutes to spare, so the ticket lady was in a panic) that we realised what was actually going to happen. Some people buy a single train ticket so they can return by river boat (prohibitively expensive for Yorkshire folk). But return tickets were only valid for the train you`d arrived on! So basically, you ride the train one way, then ride it straight back again. According to the lady, there was `nothing there` at the other end. OKaaaay...
So we rode the train anyway, it being `scenic` and `romantic`. The little train hugged the side of a mountain directly over the river. It even crossed over the river at one point so you could get good photos from wherever you were. Not sure how romantic it is though - you`ve never been in a noisier, rattlier or chuggier train and the squealing brakes were enough to set your teeth on edge. Also it`s hard to feel too romantic when it`s standing room only and you`re being serenaded by the guide singing old Japanese folk songs, but perhaps the numerous dark tunnels afford opportunities for some. Anyway, on the `scenic` front it certainly scored highly. There was the obligatory waving to the people who`d forked out for the river rapids boat ride.
We also passed a famous tanuki pottery (tanuki are raccoon dogs; you see the statues everywhere in Japan).
Daughter enjoying the train ride.
Back at the station, there were model train sets and for 100 yen you could drive one of the little trains for a few minutes.
A bit stumped as to what to do next, we headed into Arashiyama for a bite to eat. It was Sunday, so usually Arashiyama would be heaving with (mainly Japanese) tourists. Today it was fairly busy in places, but there were very few gaijin (foreigners) and it wasn`t half as busy as usual. A lot of shop keepers on the touristy roads looked quite bored and miserable - it seems people just aren`t coming here at the moment.

We decided to look on the bright side though - no queues or endlessly bumping into people, and it was a glorious day. Being vegetarian in Japan is usually a right carry on, but today we found a sweet potato seller. He was very shy about having his picture taken but I managed to sneak a shot as he was serving us. The sweet potatoes were gorgeously soft and oozy in the middle and incredibly sweet because they`d been cooked in their skins. Mmm.
Undeterred by the morning`s hiking fail, we set our sights on a distant temple and off we went. As the day was so warm, we sought out the temple`s huge pond to rest our weary selves at the side of. Again, for a popular temple, it was extremely quiet, but we were thankful of the peace.

Next to us, a group of small girls were terrified and excited in equal measure when they realised the pond was full of the most mahoosive koi carp! Their mothers showed them how to clap to attract the attention of the koi (we assumed this was because it sounded like rain?) and we laughed as the girls clapped at the fish, then shrieked and jumped back as soon as one came close.
Here`s a behemoth that came up to me.
Intrepid as ever, we decided to take a walk round some vegetable farms(?!) Although still within the Kyoto mountains, this was a pretty remote place and it was nice that everyone we passed said hello to us. There were even some old thatched houses, which I`d never seen in situ before.
By now we were all getting a bit tired so decided tea and cakes were in order. In the little cafe we were randomly told by a fellow customer that Daughter and I were very beautiful (how true...) and that Boyf and Ex-Hubby (did I mention we all travel together?!) were very handsome! All I can think is that they must have a very strange sense of aesthetic in Japan.

Anyway, back at Arashiyama station we saw this lovely sand sculpture.
Oh, and this is a picture of `beautiful` me and `handsome` Boyf. Hmm, draw your own conclusions.
To top off this rather marvelous day, we had a real treat of an experience at the station. For a mere 150 yen, you get a towel (which you can keep, with a picture of the tram on) and a communal foot bath! Which is just the ticket after a hard day`s hiking and the cameraderie of our fellow foot-bathers made this one of the highlights of the trip so far.

Which brings me to Random Sign of the Day. Do you think this is where David Cameron goes to get new policy ideas?

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