Kyoto Day 3: Biking to Saga-Arashiyama, Katsura-gawa River Farms

November 28th, 2012. Categories / Japan

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Luckily, the skies were free of rain on Tuesday.

After a double breakfast of Starbucks and Sukiya curry, J and I rented single speed bikes from a nearby shop. Rate: 700 yen until 7PM, with optional 200 yen theft/damage insurance. The bikes had a rear wheel lock built in and a cable lock attached to the basket.

Biking in Kyoto was a totally different experience than walking. While easy to cover distances quickly, it was hard to notice little details. But we had moved up the food chain, and pedestrians yielded to us now. I signaled my approach with rear brakes that sounded like a horny goose getting his neck choked.

Our improvised route took us west, through some industrial areas, to the levees of the Katsura River. The water was neither still nor deep. The western side of the wide river offered views of the colorful wooded hills.

The fast moving traffic on the levees motivated biking on the sidewalk.

But the traffic began to slow as we approached our destination, Arashiyama. Buses of people unloaded into the area, and the sidewalks, bridges, and paths were clogged. Everyone was taking photos of each other, many with smartphones.

This area along the river is home to a variety of popular tourist sites, but our choice was Sagano bamboo forest.

Most of the photos of this path must be taken before people wake up, as it was packed when we visited. J and I were the only people walking bikes through the crowd, though for some reason taxis were trying to squeeze through too.

I desperately needed to use the restroom, and it took a while to find one. After much relief, I looked back to the building to see the red emergency light flashing. Somehow it knew.

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Underpass.
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J on a bike.
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Hoping for a terminator chase.
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Oh sheet.
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A classy stoop.
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Crossing the tracks.
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Smithy Smithy’s magnetic plugs.
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The leek master.
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Silkscreening shop.
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Detail.
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The banks of the Katsura.
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A neighborhood flanking a tributary.
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Indian style ghats?
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Yellow trash.
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A man and a wall.
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The doorway.
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Empty factory.
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Industry and muscle car.
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The contraption.
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Brand new everything.
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Drawing the view.
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Riverside farm.
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A simple bridge.
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A standard, luxurious black cab.
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Little car by the river.
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Bamboo.
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More bamboo.
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A crowded path.

The crowds became too stressful, so we decided to go biking along the western side of the river. On that side, it’s called the Hozu. And I hope an ancient battle happened over the name. But searching for the “Hozu-Katsura River War” proved fruitless.

In the fertile flood zone inside the levee, a paved path meandered through a variety of informal farms. Periodically, tiny trucks would drive on the path and turn into plots to pick up crops or make a delivery.

Varied produce was growing, especially cabbage and shallots. The plants looked healthy, a sign of good soil. A few people tended the fields, perhaps even living in some of the improvised structures.

We biked out of the river, bought some snacks, and returned to sit on a bench in a dusty baseball field/golf swing practice area. A small hawk alighted on the top of a nearby tree, and the branch sagged into a frown.

On the return trip, we passed through light industrial areas and the main wholesale market. The place was empty and dimly lit, and the few workers shuffling boxes around the warehouses and cleaning up didn’t mind two interlopers on bikes passing through.

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Fire in the sky.
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A thin skinned boat of tourists.
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Another cool compact car.
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Railroad guards.
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J on a bike.
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Modest plots.
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Bike with a view.
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Farmland.
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River figs.
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Produce delivery.
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Cabbages.
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Rice.
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Railroad bridge.
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One of a few fresh produce vending machines.
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Rusty.
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Food! Food in every direction!
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Inside an empty warehouse.
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Just passing through.
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Veggie cart.
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Where scooters go to die.
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Parking.
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Gluttonous, green tea flavored folded dessert with black bean paste inside. Very good.

For dinner, J led me on a walk along the nearly empty skyway of the shopping center above the main train station. Vertigo.

The cavernous interior of the building had a variety of levels, accessed by escalators and a Mesopotamian sized cascade of stairs. A massive, seemingly fake Christmas tree was the focus of cameras and smiles. Speakers at its base played a variety of familiar melodies with lullaby instrumentation.

We ate dinner and dessert in an upper floor “ramen alley”. The beer cost almost as much as the soup, and wasn’t as flavorful. The green tea ice cream was rich but not too sweet. I detected acceptable levels of radiation in all dishes.

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The skywalk.
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Approaching the helipad.
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I ain’t no helipad girl. No I ain’t no helipad girl.
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This photo doesn’t capture the cavernous and vertiginous interior of the mall.
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Black broth ramen.
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Green tea ice cream with rice paste, bean paste, rice cracker, served on a green tea flavored shell.

Despite it being the last night in Kyoto, I didn’t have the gusto to go out into the night and explore. The Christmas cues had brainwashed me into my snug little room, to feel warm and safe.

That night I dreamt of sugarplums.

2 Comments


Irene:

Fascinating, and wonderful, as usual.

So glad you found your green tea flavored triangles filled with black bean paste! Whew!

So, wait, did you ride in a helicopter, or just visit a helipad?

Also, fresh produce vending machines?! Amazing.

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