Saturday, August 12, 2017

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Midsummer Hair

The bamboo groves of Arashiyama has many a times come up on my auto-rotate Chromecast screensaver and friends' travel photos on Facebook – a sea of perennial green lit up throughout the year, you could feel peaceful just looking at the pictures... So while we were in Kyoto, I knew that I wanted to do a short half-day trip to the grove.

Only half an hour train ride away from central Kyoto station, we hopped on the JR Sagano Line towards the western outskirts of Kyoto for 240 yen (~£1.80!). Many people rent bikes for about 1000 yen just outside the station to ride around the town but it was warm and crowded, so we skipped that and decided to walk the 10 minutes from Arashiyama station to the bamboo groves.

It was pretty early in the day but man it was crowded. I know a lot of the advice was to wake up and get there as early as 6am but I don't think I'm very good at waking up early when traveling (I blame jetlag, ha) so while we usually end up getting out slightly earlier than usual it'd still be pretty crowded. The groves are open 24 hours, so you could technically come any time of the day...

Like I said in my sneak peek of Japan, Japanese summers are truly unforgiving and that day was no different. Although we sped through the sunny streets as quick as we could, it wasn't long before I was completely soaked in sweat. No one tells you about the unglamorous side of traveling, do they? (But that's a topic of another day)

This didn't stop a lot of people from donning yukatas (the summer equivalent of a kimono!) and embracing summer like a real boss.

The thick green stalks are tall and billowy giants which still manage to illuminate a shady path - and a well-deserved rest from the sun! I love how the path snakes into a curve, opening up to even more forestry as you turn round the initial bend. The bamboos are used for manufacturing many household products and I was still getting over how amazing it was being whisked away to a preserved piece of nature for less than a Pret sandwich (no kidding).

It takes about about 20 minutes to stroll leisurely down the path, and it's dotted with minor attractions like the Okochi Sanso villa (belonging to a famous late actor) and shrines...

Despite the path filled to the brim, it was a relaxing walk (minus my need to pee hahahah oops), it's not everyday you can ride half an hour to come into a middle of a bamboo forest! In fact, it takes me half an hour at least to leave the concrete jungle in Londontown... I wish we were as close to nature as this. That's what made our trip so amazing, you could find yourself deep in the heart of greenery within an hour from the bustling city. Pockets of vast greens like these make me so happy! Definitely a contrast when you're trying your best not to get lung cancer walking down London streets.

The glow is real and the sweat doesn't stop! Thankfully I chose my outfit well - a floaty see-through tulle top, my fave bralette from Victoria's Secret, and some easy breezy shorts.

Outfit: Top - H&M (old) / Shorts - Zara (old) / Bralette - Victoria's Secret (highly recommend and sooo comfy, especially in preventing dat gross underboob sweat!) 

Before coming to Japan, I had the chance to dye my hair again with the wonderful Naturigin. I've sung high praises endlessly before so I'll keep this one short - I wanted a refreshed and fun look for summer and opted for Natural Medium Blonde* this time, and it was a beautiful contrast against the painfully beautiful green hues of the forest. Brown hair ftw or what?!

If you're interested, I have reviewed them in detail before (here and here) if you want to learn more about them: in short, their ingredients are naturally derived, free of chemical nasties and cruelty free :-) psss, and they're under £10! The dye doesn't strip my hair out and is one of the easiest box dye to use in the market. Naturigin has 19 Natural Hair Colours so if you're thinking of switching up to something warm for autumn, look no further. Thank you Natalie for always being so accommodating!

At the end of the winding path, there's a small gift shop and snack bar and of course I jumped at the chance at a simple fare of green tea kakigori. An icy treat in the sweltering heat was a real treat. Next to it you could also hop on the Saga Scenic Railway which oversees the beautiful nearby Hozu river, and was also very popular when we were there. 

Arashiyama actually has much more to offer than its resplendent bamboo groves, and in spring and autumn where colours come to life, the nearby Togetsukyo Bridge (translated: Moon Crossing Bridge - how cute is the name?!) and Iwatayama Monkey Park with hundreds of free-roaming monkeys are popular attractions too! We skipped on both because of the weather but I imagine the bridge to be absolutely stunning in the changing season... 

While the bamboo groves were one of the more touristy thing we did, I really did enjoy it. It was fun t get away from the city and the shops and enjoy the quietness of the town. It also helped that it was easy to get to! The forest are signposted all the way from the station so it's definitely foreigner-proof, hahaha.

Hope you guys enjoyed the first Japan post (of many, I hope), we've been back two weeks and I'm already regretting leaving the summer season behind. Nothing is worse than having cold feet going to bed at night *cough* rainy London *cough*.  Have you been to the forest or Arashiyama?

*I've been generously gifted my hair colour by Naturigin, but y'all know I love them fer real. 

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