Arashiyama, literally ‘Misty Mountain’
I let out yet another sneeze, the umpteenth for the day. Startled by the sudden outburst, the polite looking Japanese lady walking alongside took a little two-step skip away as I looked apologetically around. She looked back with a sheepish combination of disgust and pity. Despite the profusion of Japanese words for just about every situation and eventuality, there isn’t an equivalent of ‘Bless you’, or ‘Gesundheit’ for when someone sneezes, just an awkward silence post expulsion. We both tried to pretend nothing happened and carried on our merry way.
The apparent delight of the plants and trees at spreading their seed in the glorious spring weather clearly did not agree as well with my nose. The air, thick with pollen, had resulted in my somewhat swollen nose determined to scare off little old ladies and passing children with my thunderous sneezes.
Despite my equally irritated eyes bent on clouding my vision with a veil of tears, it was pretty impossible not to notice just how stunning the surrounds I found myself in was.
Sunshine was filtering through the layered canopy of overhanging leaves, bright green with the optimism of spring and everywhere was alive with the sounds of chirping birds and rustling foliage.
We were spending the day in Arashiyama, on the western outskirts of Kyoto. With a liberal scattering of traditional Japanese shinto temples and shrines along the mountainside, each ridiculously picturesque and expansive, it was little wonder that we weren’t the only ones there. Great hordes of Japanese school children on some form of an excursion or another were also loudly clattering away on the idyllic footpaths, more interested in impressing their female classmates and jabbing away at their smart phones than in learning about the various feudal lords and warrior monks that featured heavily in the history of each site. It was the week before the Japanese Golden Week so perhaps the kids were tired of all the learning that had gone on all term and was ready for a break.
But neither the pollen, the swollen eyes, running nose nor that distracting kids could take away from the intrinsic beauty of the place. It was truly a place of wonders.
Hundreds of tombstones lie at Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple, originally placed by venerable monk Kobo Daishi.
A rickshaw puller regales his fares with tales from the past
The bamboo grove at Arashiyama, another world altogether.
A gaggle of schoolgirls pause to snack on sweetened mochi, a traditional sticky rice ball on a bamboo stick.
An old lady tends her stall, selling knick knacks to tourists.