Kyoto Day 3 – Covering the city from end to end

Blessed with once again near perfect weather and with an iffy forecast ahead, we decided to hit two of the major items on our list – Philosopher’s Walk and the bamboo forest of Arishiyama on the other side of town.  We arrived at the beginning of the Philosopher’s Walk a bit after 9AM, which proved to be wise as it was already teeming with people.

Named after a philosophy professor from the near-by Kyoto University, the path was a beautiful cherry tree lined walk above a small river below.  Some locals appeared to be having their morning stroll amongst foreign tourists and Japanese tourists dressed in traditional garb.  It made for quite the people watching.  We walked the entire path, ending up on a large street that led toward the university.

As we crossed into the surrounding campus, we noticed these large wooden signs which appeared to be advertisements to join various college clubs – from alpine climbing to dancing and pretty much everything in between.  A few of the favorites we saw:

After yet another fruitless attempt to have a cab driver take us to a specific address, which led to him kicking us out of the cab, we opted to hoof it as we discovered we actually weren’t that far away.

Chris was jonesing for some more wagyu beef and since I hadn’t had that yet, I had found a place known for it, at a very reasonable price, called Hafuu.  We had actually tried to locate it the day before to get a reservation but it was closed.  After a couple of false alarms, we finally found it tucked away on a quite side street.  The counter seating was already gone but they had a small dining room in the back.  That would be more that acceptable as it was finally a real table with real chairs!

The restaurant is owned by a family who also has a butcher shop.  This, they explained, is why they can sell wagyu for a lot less than other places.  We both ordered the wagyu sirloin, which was a very reasonable $40 USD.  This would also include some sides in a typical bento-style lunch.

Soon a glorious plate of freshly grilled marbled beef appeared in front of us along with rice, some pickled ginger, miso soup and a salad.  All of these sides were familiar of course but a far superior version than a typical bento box.  I particularly enjoyed the hand cut noodles.  And oh yeah, the beef. Well, take a look at this slice of heaven.

Yes, it was delicious and over oh too soon.

We had to locate the 11 bus, which would take us to Arashiyama, which proved to be a bit farther walk than though.  We finally found the proper bus stop and boarded shortly thereafter.  Fortunately, it was the beginning of the route so I was able to get the coveted (well for me) seat in the back with lots of legroom.  We headed out of downtown Kyoto and towards the mountains off in the distance.  Along the way, we enjoyed the sing song stylings of the bus driver announcements and watched as the landscape changed from the modern to the traditional.

We exited the bus to truly feel like we were in another time and place.  A large river, deep green in color, was before us, with boats slowly gliding along and a bank filled with people strolling along it.  This turned out to be the entrance to the bamboo forest and soon we were hiking up a few hundred feet to get to this fabled landscape.  There were of course  many cherry trees along the way but at least at first not that much bamboo.

This soon changed though as we rounded the corner known as the Path of the Bamboo.  In front of us were massive bamboo trees reaching up into the sky, blotting out most of the mid-day sun.  This continued for almost a mile as the path waved its way around these majestic trees.  Truly one of the more beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed.

Chris was impressed.

And I was glad to just finally be able to completely stretch for a change.

At the end of the path was a small village designed to look like feudal Japan and while a bit chintzy, dammed if it didn’t really feel like I was looking into the far past with Toshiro Mifune and his samurai brothers peering back at me.  We made the loop around the rest of the surrounding park and got some spectacular views along the way.

Finally, as my back and feet started to rebel loudly, we made it back on the bus for the long ride home.  It was pretty much the perfect day and made me understand why so many people love it here.

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