One of the things I told my friend I wanted to do was to see the bamboo grove and soon found out she had a field trip there while I was visiting. First I was disheartened but her teachers gave her the okay to bring me along, so we got up early and caught the first of two buses to Arashiyama where we met her teachers and classmates and were dispersed for lunch. We didn’t eat anywhere in Arashiyama, having instead brought sandwiches and chips from the Family Mart the night before near where my friend lives. So we sat on the roots of a big tree, protected by its leaves by the rain and looked out over the river until it was time to start the field trip. Our first stop was Tenryū-ji.
Tenryū Shiseizen-ji 天龍寺
Tenryū-ji is a Zen temple and it’s one of the main ones. While there we visited two main sites. Hatto where photos were not permitted and the garden. First my friend led me off to the entrance of the Abbots Quarters or Hojo where I bought a combo ticket which was 600 yen. Visiting Hatto required us to set aside our umbrellas and put our shoes in a bag to carry around. It was small and we sat on wooden benches and stared up at the ceiling at 雲龍図 or Unryū-zu the cloud dragon whose eyes are painted in happo nirami style so no matter where you are in the temple it looks like it’s watching you. It was painted by Kayama Matazo for the 650th anniversary of the death of the founder of Tenryū Shiseizen-ji, Muso Kokushi.
After that we were given an hour to wonder the Sogenchi Garden and abbots quarters. Inside Hojo we took off our shoes and wandered around, protected from the rain and able to see the garden, following covered pathways around from the main building (Daihojo) to the smaller building (Kohojo).
After walking around the Hojo we moved onto the garden. Which was beautiful. With carp in the Sogenchi pond and tons of flowers in bloom it was pleasant to wander around in the rain. The garden hasn’t changed for many centuries, at least not since a 1799.
After our hour wandering around Tenryū-ji it was time for my friend’s mission to begin. Her and her classmates were broken up into groups, given a paper in Japanese and sent off to figure it out. Our group was sent to the bamboo grove.
Nonomiya Shrine in the Bamboo Grove
We were in a bit of a hurry through the bamboo grove, being in the rain and in search of answers. So sadly it caused my trip to the grove to be rather short and most of my photos to be blurry. The bamboo grove is a pathway just lined with tall bamboo that’s absolutely stunning. The majority of our time in the grove though was spent at Nonomiya shrine. The Nonomiya Shrine is a Shinto shrine with a black Kuroki No Torii gate. Inside is the Kame No Ishi or the turtle stone, a stone that you rub while making a wish that should come true within the year while praying. It’s the temple mentioned in Genji-Monogatari “Tale of Genji”. There are a couple different gods but the one we found was Nonomiya Daikokuten of matchmaking/marriage, the others include Nonomiya (sun goddess), Atago (fire and victory), Shiramine Bezaiten (art), Shirafuku Inari (childbirth and business), Ooyama Bezaiten (traffic safety and wealth). We spent most of our time huddled under a hut in the center filled with wooden wishes as my friends group tried to understand their mission. It was a small temple, and crowded despite the rain.
After we finished at the shrine we headed to Arashiyama station where we sat around waiting for the rest of the groups to be done. Some of them were sent on longer missions further away, to some of the many shrines throughout Arashiyama or to the Kameyama-koen park/Iwatayama monkey park which is filled with monkeys that you can see if your lucky and the weather is a bit nicer. The station was really nice with a kimono forest that lights up at night. We didn’t explore though and instead sat and ate takoyaki.
There’s a ton to do in Arashiyama and we didn’t even crack the surface. It’s not a quick trip and could very easily take a whole day just to explore but it’s beauty makes that easy. There’s also plenty of shops to buy souvenirs. I wish we had had more time to look at the bamboo grove, to visit the monkeys in better weather and to have seen more of the things there, but I still had fun and enjoyed meeting my friend’s classmates.