Arashiyama makes a perfect day trip from Kyoto. The place is especially renowned for its bamboo grove. At only a short walking distance from the train station, the bamboo forest will enchant you. A hiking and biking path cuts through the forest of straight bamboo trees that sway gently with the wind and gently filters the sunlight, providing a relief from the intensely warm Japanese summer days.
Higashiyama, which means mountains of the East, is a district located on the Eastern slope of Kyoto. The Higashiyama is one of the best preserved historical districts in Kyoto. While some of the picturesque small streets of Higashiyama are lined with souvenir stores catering to tourists, some are more secluded and offer that special undisturbed charm of old Japanese cities. The Kiyomizu-Dera temple is an unmistakable attraction of this district.
The Kiyomizudera temple is without a doubt one of the landmarks of Kyoto. The temple is located on the hills to the East of Kyoto, just passed the Higashiyama district. The main building is built on steep terrain and is held in place by many wooden pillars. The deck offers a nice view of the city.
Strangely, it was an Edo period tradition to jump off the deck of the Kiyomizudera temple (13m high). If you survived, your wish would be granted. If you did not survive… Well lets just say luck was not on your side. Historical records tell that two hundred thirty-four people (234) jumped during the Edo period. About 85% of those survived. Jumping is prohibited nowadays but you can still enjoy the awesome view of the city of Kyoto.
The thirsty traveller may also enjoy a nice cup of tea after the visit in a very pleasant setting. A section of the temple is also dedicated to a goddess of love and attracts many young girls seeking romance.
When I visited Osaka-jo with my parents, we saw a group of several middle-aged men with their birds of prey. I think that they often meet on Osaka Castle’s premises. The men were sitting nearby the west entrance of the castle, like old acquaintances, caring for their birds. If you happen to be in the area of Osaka castle on a weekend, pay them a visit and you may be lucky and given the privilege of holding a bird of prey!
The Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s landmark castles. It is surrounded by an impressively system of defenses comprising huge walls and wide moats. Some of the rocks making its walls are gigantic, and the methods they used to bring them there is mind boggling (I’ve heard they used wooden barrels filled with air to navigate the rocks from the quarry to the castle). The Castle and its surrounding park is a great place to take a break from the crowded streets of Osaka and the view of the city from the observation deck is really worth the visit. The lower floors of Osaka castle present the lords and battles that made the history of the city of Osaka.