Trip Report - Japan 5/2019 UPDATED 8/11!! ABD Day 4 Bento Momento - Kyoto & The Hozugawa River

sayhello

Have Camera, Will Travel
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
Day 2 – Bamboo Beauty

Day 2 of our Adventure had a fairly early start (sorry, I can’t remember exact times, but it was around 7:30am) because this day started with our Welcome Breakfast. It was the same buffet we’d had the previous day, in the quiet room (but we were the only ones in there). We ate, chatted, and then James & Tomomi introduced themselves again in a bit more detail, and then had all the families introduce themselves and say what they were looking forward to the most.

There were 31 people on this ABD, with one Junior Adventurer. She was 15 and there with her father (from what I gathered, the Mom did not care to travel, and the father had taken her brother on a big trip last year). The two of them were just SO CUTE together!! Seriously, they were absolutely adorable. She was obviously well-traveled, well-behaved and used to being around adults. It was kind of easy sometimes to almost forget it wasn’t an Adults Only (but James would remind us every once in a while if the conversation got a bit “adult” by admonishing “Zoe! Don’t listen!”)

The rest of the group consisted of me, several couples, the 2 sisters traveling together that I’d had breakfast with the first morning, a couple of families with adult children, a mother with her adult son & daughter and 2 mother/daughter pairs. One of the couples was an elderly couple who were on my Iceland ABD last year.

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So, once we’d had all our introductions, and a quick overview of the trip, we all headed out to our motorcoach to head to our first activity – a Rickshaw Tour of the Sagano Bamboo Forest and the Arashiyama district of Kyoto. Tomomi told us that we’d be traveling with “her boys”. When we arrived, we found out what she meant. There was an area where a whole slew of rickshaws were parked, 8 across and 3 deep in some places. In front was a group of extremely fit young men waiting for us with big smiles and waves. They seemed really glad to see us, and happy to be taking us around, and it was infectious.

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James & Tomomi called us up in turns to clamber up into our rickshaws. My driver gave me a map of the area, and tucked me into my seat with a light blanket, and off we went. He introduced himself as Naoki. Very quickly, we turned into the area of the Bamboo Forest. There were many people out walking along the path, and it was really kind of fun to whiz past them in my rickshaw. These guys really know what they are doing and are seriously strong. I just can’t believe how quickly and agilely they ran around! It was seriously impressive! And I have a feeling we ended up in a lot of other people's vacation photos and videos.

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Almost immediately, the Bamboo Forest surrounded us with a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere. I was actually pretty giddy as we traveled. It was just wonderfully beautiful.

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Part way through, each driver in turn parked the rickshaw in a little turn-out area, and took photos of us in our rickshaws with the towering bamboo surrounding us.

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This is one of my favorite photos of the trip!

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I asked Naoki how old the bamboo that towered above us was, and he said – 5 to 6 months!!! I was flabbergasted! I knew bamboo grew quickly, which is one of the reasons it is so sustainable, but I had no clue it grew *that* fast! It looked like it had been there for years and years and years!

We left the Forest for a bit, and rode through the streets of Arashiyama. There were tons of beautiful shrines and temples, as there were all over Kyoto. Naoki provided some commentary of what we were passing, and answered my questions. He also asked me a few questions about the United States, and talked about how he’d like to go to San Francisco.

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James & Tomomi in their rickshaw.

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After a bit, Naoki parked our rickshaw in a long line with the others, and I scrambled out to do a bit of walking along a lush open courtyard area, and back into the bamboo forest, where we walked for a bit, and got our photos taken by James & Tomomi.

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Continued in next post.
 
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sayhello

Have Camera, Will Travel
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
After that, it was back in the rickshaw, and back out to travel the streets of Arashiyama towards the river that cuts through Kyoto. (This is the same river I walked across the morning before, on my way to the ATM).

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Naoki parked me alongside the river, and took another photo, and I grabbed some shots of the river and the hills behind it. Apparently like 90% of those trees are maples, and are *gorgeous* in the Fall! Hopefully we'll get some shots of that from the folks going then!

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Then we took off again, and eventually wended our way back to our starting point. As we got out of our rickshaws and said good-by to our “boys”, everyone was literally beaming, and proclaiming how amazing this trip was, and we had literally just finished our *first* activity of the trip! (It really is an AMAZING way to start out this ABD! Whoever chose this was *SO* smart!!)

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After this, we met up with our local Guide and took off on our walking tour of Arashiyama. We walked back towards an area where there was a temple and a plot of grass covered in statues of Buddha’s students. Apparently, a person or a business could sponsor a statue, and a plaque in front listed the sponsor. It was very interesting; the small statues had very different styles and some were quite unique, including one that had a “mini-me” standing on his head. No-one was quite sure what the symbolism of that was.

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We then headed off to the Tenryu-ji Zen Temple, which had the *lovely* Sogenchi Garden on its grounds. (It’s a United Nations World Heritage Site).

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After James & Tomomi took the requisite family photos, we were given some free time to wander the gardens, and told when to meet back at the front to head out.

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The gardens were lush and green, with some flowers, and its own towering bamboo plants, swaying and whispering in the slight wind.

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Continued in next post.
 
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  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
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    And then I noticed this couple. I thought, Oh, is she a Maiko? (A Geisha in training). But what is the man in kimono? I just didn’t know, but it was unusual to me.

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    We then headed to our lunch at Yosiya Restaurant. Our lunch was to be a traditional Sukiyaki meal.

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    This was a meal of beef, cooked it a plate over a flame, with vegetables, eggs and tofu. You could include whichever ingredients you want in your plate, and cook it as done as you liked. It was really yummy! The seats were not on the floor, but they were quite low to the ground. Water & your choice of soft drink were included. It was a very social meal, and we had a lovely view of the river from the restaurant.

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    We then were given some free time to shop in a cute little gift shop for things like chopsticks, tea cups, etc.

    After that, it was back to our motorcoach, and on to Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera, the Pure Water Temple, which is a really popular site in Kyoto. The ABD booklet says “Founded in 780, the temple was built on the site of Otowa Waterfall, whose waters are divided into 3 streams, from which visitors are invited to drink.” Tradition is that drinking from each stream gave you good luck in love, success in school or long life. Drinking from all 3 is supposed to be greedy!

    I was kind of surprised and pleased when I realized we were driving up the hill I’d hiked up the night before, as I was walking off my dinner. The Temple was much further up the hill, but actually could be considered walkable from the hotel, depending on your definition of “walkable”.

    The temple was built on an incredibly lush area that covered much of the hillside. There was a beautiful gate, and a very tall pagoda, all painted a lovely red. (And yes, we had the full "Adventures by Disney" Paddle of Powers there. That was so nice!)

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    We stopped to check out a lookout over Kyoto and take some photos, then headed over to one of the large buildings.

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    As we walked, I noticed more people in kimonos. I asked Tomomi about it, because there were just so many people dressed this way here, and she told me that they are tourists!! Like from Korea or China, etc. Apparently, it’s a “thing” in Asia to dress up in Kimonos while you’re on vacation in Japan, and just walk around that way. I mean, it *did* look neat, but it also looked like a *very* uncomfortable way to travel! But we saw it pretty much everywhere we went. There were kimono rental stores all over the place.

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    Continued in next post.
     
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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Unfortunately, the famous “stage” or balcony at the temple was under renovation, and mostly covered up. They had one tiny area of it open that you could go out on and see the views over the hillside & trees below and around the temple.

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    We then walked town a series of steps to the area where the waterfalls are. While the Temple is beautiful and serene, I have to admit, the “Waterfall” was just a little bit of a letdown. It was a little covered area where the water came down from overhead in three tiny trickles. It was *not* what I was thinking it would be. But once I got over that, it was really quite cute and we lined up to get our “sips” from the streams. At this point, it had started sprinkling just a little bit, but luckily some of us had umbrellas. It was mostly done raining by the time those of us who wanted to got our turn to drink.

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    They had cups on long poles that you could put out into the trickles and fill it up with the water. They very nicely had an ultra violet sanitizer that you got them from and returned them to, so you didn’t have to worry about germs! Quite clever!

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    We then were given some time to wander around for a bit, and eventually met up back outside the temple. There was a huge area there of shops that we were given plenty of time to wander through and buy souvenirs.

    After that, we headed back to our motorcoach, and headed back to our hotel.

    We had, at that point, a couple of hours of free time to do whatever we wanted, and were given a time to meet back in the hotel lobby to head to dinner. I have to admit, I took this as the perfect sign to take care of something I really wanted to do --- watch the final episode of “Game of Thrones”, which had aired the night before in the US (which was that morning in Japan). After all these years of watching, I wanted to see the *very last* episode before someone spoiled it for me. I’d gotten a VPN (ExpressVPN) mostly for this reason (although it turned out to be very useful) and had a subscription to HBO Now. So I headed to my room, set up my tablet, and settled in for about an hour and a half to watch. It was quite an episode!! I was *really* glad I’d watched!

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    After that, I grabbed my things and headed down to the lobby. We headed out in some very light rain to The Sodoh restaurant for our dinner.

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    The dinner was quite nice, and we were entertained by a Maiko, who performed some traditional dances for us and told us what the life of a Maiko/Geisha was like. She also answered questions.

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    Continued in next post.
     

    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Next, there was a stylized “samurai” demo/performance.

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    And then they let us dress up in light kimonos and get our photos taken with the samurai swords. It was pretty fun!

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    James on the right! :)

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    It had been an amazing, jam-packed day, and our incredible adventure was only just starting!

    Coming next: Day 3: Gateway to Peace.
     
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    TarotFox

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Feb 8, 2019
    Great trip report! I've been looking at this trip for a while, but I'm very on the fence for the price. Do you feel like the trio is still worth it to someone who has been to Japan before? I've been to some of these spots before, although I didn't speak Japanese then and I do now. My degree is pretty much in Japanese Studies (Asian Studies, minor in Japanese... mostly Japanese history, culture, and language). At this point I know a LOT about Japan and even though I haven't done certain things like tea ceremony and such IN Japan, Japanese people have done these sort of things with me many times. My program was... intensely thorough lol. So I wonder if I might feel a redundancy during things like the calligraphy stuff (this loses the magic when you can read and write a bit). On the other hand my fiance has never been to Japan, though he has had a lot of exposure through events I've been a part of. But the repeats are things I think he would get value out of. I just wonder if this trip is good for our purposes. Tricky given the cost!
     
  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Great trip report! I've been looking at this trip for a while, but I'm very on the fence for the price. Do you feel like the trio is still worth it to someone who has been to Japan before? I've been to some of these spots before, although I didn't speak Japanese then and I do now. My degree is pretty much in Japanese Studies (Asian Studies, minor in Japanese... mostly Japanese history, culture, and language). At this point I know a LOT about Japan and even though I haven't done certain things like tea ceremony and such IN Japan, Japanese people have done these sort of things with me many times. My program was... intensely thorough lol. So I wonder if I might feel a redundancy during things like the calligraphy stuff (this loses the magic when you can read and write a bit). On the other hand my fiance has never been to Japan, though he has had a lot of exposure through events I've been a part of. But the repeats are things I think he would get value out of. I just wonder if this trip is good for our purposes. Tricky given the cost! I'm definitely going to need to think about this some more...
    Whoa. That's an interesting question. I've definitely been looking at this trip from the vantage point of someone who has never been to Japan before, doesn't speak or read the language, etc. It might help if you said what you thought would be redundant besides the calligraphy (which, honestly, didn't last that long, so I wouldn't not take the trip because of that!) If you haven't been to Hiroshima/Miyajima or Takayama/Shirakawa-go, I'd say it still could be worth it, especially since your fiance hasn't been. But it *IS* expensive! No way around that.
    Your Day 2 report is bringing back a lot of nice memories...
    Glad I could bring them back! :) More soon!
    So fun! Can't wait. We leave on Thursday!!!
    Wow!! Thursday! It'll be here before you know it! Sorry I didn't get my report done before you left! :) But you'll be living it soon!

    What do you have planned for your pre-days?

    Sayhello
     
  • OhanaCuz

    I can finally say that I've been on an ABD.
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2014
    Amazing!! That looks like such a fun day. I would have loved that trip around the bamboo forest. Those ultraviolet sanitizers were most certainly NOT there when I went. I couldn't make myself take a sip.

    I remember being so confused by the statues with aprons (like below) that I saw around that temple.

     

    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Love the trip report!
    Thanks! So glad you're enjoying it! :)
    Amazing!! That looks like such a fun day. I would have loved that trip around the bamboo forest. Those ultraviolet sanitizers were most certainly NOT there when I went. I couldn't make myself take a sip.

    I remember being so confused by the statues with aprons (like below) that I saw around that temple.

    Thanks! It really *was* amazing!

    I totally didn't see anything like that at the Temple! I'd have been very confused, too!! :eek: It *is* very colorful!

    Sayhello
     

    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    Wow!! Thursday! It'll be here before you know it! Sorry I didn't get my report done before you left! :) But you'll be living it soon!

    What do you have planned for your pre-days?

    Sayhello
    I know on the trip report, LOL!!! I was going to mention that and do a little prodding :) We are flying into Tokyo and staying two pre-nights at the Tokyo Station hotel. The only plan we have is to eat at Sushi Giro in Ginza on Saturday for lunch. After that we'll be so poor we'll probably have to walk to Kyoto. ROFL! Actually we don't have much time in Tokyo as we leave the next day to fly to Kyoto to meet the group.
     

    TarotFox

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Feb 8, 2019
    Amazing!! That looks like such a fun day. I would have loved that trip around the bamboo forest. Those ultraviolet sanitizers were most certainly NOT there when I went. I couldn't make myself take a sip.

    I remember being so confused by the statues with aprons (like below) that I saw around that temple.

    The statues have a pretty sad explanation. These are statues of Jizo, you'll see them around a lot of Buddhist temples. Parents who lose a child before it is born or in early childhood will sponsor a statue like this. The dressing up is sort of a general way to show respect in that regard. People will often do other things like sprinkle water on these statues for the same reasons.

    Whoa. That's an interesting question. I've definitely been looking at this trip from the vantage point of someone who has never been to Japan before, doesn't speak or read the language, etc. It might help if you said what you thought would be redundant besides the calligraphy (which, honestly, didn't last that long, so I wouldn't not take the trip because of that!) If you haven't been to Hiroshima/Miyajima or Takayama/Shirakawa-go, I'd say it still could be worth it, especially since your fiance hasn't been. But it *IS* expensive! No way around that.
    Glad I could bring them back! :) More soon!
    Wow!! Thursday! It'll be here before you know it! Sorry I didn't get my report done before you left! :) But you'll be living it soon!

    What do you have planned for your pre-days?

    Sayhello
    Let's see... let me take a closer look at the itinerary. I've been to Kiyomizu. I've met geisha in person but it's been a long time there, kind of at the edges of my memory though I've studied this. I have indeed been to Miyajima and Hiroshima Memorial Museum. I wouldn't terribly mind going to Miyajima again under better conditions -- it was raining hardcore on us that day and the tide was also out. Revisiting the Hiroshima Museum is something I could do or not do -- incredibly profound experience, though also incredibly depressing. I've been to Fushimi Inari Taisha and Todai-ji before, but Fushimi Inari is my personal favorite shrine and I would probably go to Fushimi Inari again either way. Been to Nara to see the deer -- did you end up seeing the deer park? I remember there was some people trying to figure out if that could be squeezed in. I have never been to Takayama/Shirakawa-go. I definitely wouldn't mind spending some time there. It looks like a lot of the specific Tokyo things are different from things that I've done... you could spend a good month in Tokyo and probably still have things to do. As a brief jump ahead -- how much time did you get in Shibuya? The itinerary says you go to the Scramble Crossing, did they basically just show you the Crossing and call it a day or did you get some time to explore the district? I'd like to spend more time at Shibuya -- looks like that might be the final thing on the day so I might have OYO time to do it anyway though? Never made sushi, and never been to Hamarikyu specifically but I've generally had my fill of tea ceremony lol. Done that a couple times now and always have to choke down the matcha -- so bitter. Been to Senso-ji and Asakusa. My fiance has generally done none of this though he has lived through a good decade of my babbling about most of it. He doesn't speak Japanese in any capacity either, so he might appreciate the English intermediaries.

    Then of course, I know this is as an extension, but I've never been to Tokyo Disney Land and it's high, high on my list of parks I need to be getting to -- whether I booked the ABD or not that's something that needs to happen.
     
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    Mathmagicland

    Disneyland - the original since 1955
    Joined
    Jul 26, 2014
    The statues have a pretty sad explanation. These are statues of Jizo, you'll see them around a lot of Buddhist temples. Parents who lose a child before it is born or in early childhood will sponsor a statue like this. The dressing up is sort of a general way to show respect in that regard. People will often do other things like sprinkle water on these statues for the same reasons.
    Thank you for this info - I’d wondered about them also on my April AbD but never remembered to ask the guides.
     

    OhanaCuz

    I can finally say that I've been on an ABD.
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2014
    The statues have a pretty sad explanation. These are statues of Jizo, you'll see them around a lot of Buddhist temples. Parents who lose a child before it is born or in early childhood will sponsor a statue like this. The dressing up is sort of a general way to show respect in that regard. People will often do other things like sprinkle water on these statues for the same reasons.
    That is so sad! Thank you for explaining what they are.
     

    AquaDame

    Disney Cruise Line
    Moderator
    Joined
    Jul 7, 2010
    Great trip report! I've been looking at this trip for a while, but I'm very on the fence for the price. Do you feel like the trio is still worth it to someone who has been to Japan before? I've been to some of these spots before, although I didn't speak Japanese then and I do now. My degree is pretty much in Japanese Studies (Asian Studies, minor in Japanese... mostly Japanese history, culture, and language). At this point I know a LOT about Japan and even though I haven't done certain things like tea ceremony and such IN Japan, Japanese people have done these sort of things with me many times. My program was... intensely thorough lol. So I wonder if I might feel a redundancy during things like the calligraphy stuff (this loses the magic when you can read and write a bit). On the other hand my fiance has never been to Japan, though he has had a lot of exposure through events I've been a part of. But the repeats are things I think he would get value out of. I just wonder if this trip is good for our purposes. Tricky given the cost!
    Hi @TarotFox! I was in the same boat as you, and opted to do another trip on my own earlier this year. Having seen the trip reports now from a few people I am glad I did it the way I did. I was able to stay in Japan for 19 days (!!!) and still spend much less without feeling like I missed out on anything. The places they go are the main tourist spots really... its all quite easy to get to. I'm grateful for ABD for putting Takayama on my radar, but I had also been to Japan before as it sounds like you have. Some things were repeats for me as I've brought my husband up to speed as it were (we've gone twice together now) but being able to go at my own pace was very nice, as was getting to stay at *ahem* cheaper places and eat exactly what I want and when. :) I think this trip is a GREAT value for people who are a little shy about traveling without speaking the language, or as a first trip to Japan, but not so much for those who are comfortable getting around and able to speak some Japanese. Tokyo Disneyland is an add on (and again, an expensive one at that again) so I didn't really consider that part when I was looking at the ABD.
     

    Birdie dog

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 19, 2015
    Your report looks wonderful. I love that you settled in to watch GOT. I'm also a long time watcher and I was in Prague when the final episode aired. Shockingly, our hotel had HBO so I set an alarm for 0200 and watched it real time.
     

    Jess_S

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 14, 2015
    It sounds like ABD knocked it out of the park with this itinerary. Looking forward to hearing more.
     

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