Slow Trains to Kyoto October 2011
Typhoon rains causing landslides across much of the southern Kii
Peninsula this autumn, forced us to cancel our planned tour to
Kumano and change the itinerary to the Slow Trains to Kyoto tour.
I believe that focusing on west Honshu island, rather than points
north of Tokyo, remains a sensible option at the moment, given
the ongoing situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Meeting in Osaka, we sped west on the bullet train (the only fast
train!) to Hiroshima, where I was happy to see that the ancient
Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima was not as badly affected by recent
flooding during seasonally high tides as I'd feared. We were actually
fortunate to be witness a wedding, followed by a traditional gagaku dance.
That evening we enjoyed the first of many delicious meals and sake at
one of Hiroshima's better know Japanese restaurants.
Our next destination was Arifuku Onsen natural hot spring village
in western Shimane Prefecture. The dance theme continued as we
attended a dynamic kagura performance after dinner on
our second evening. The ryokan we stayed at is run by a family
we have a very good relationship with and who always look after
us very well indeed. The ryokan is a home from home, and a real
sanctuary. We enjoyed the new café they have attached to
the ryokan, as well as soaking in the local sento hot
Lanterns and bamboo
Ubiquitous in Japan
Giving strength and light
The second day in Arifuku we drove over to the Iwami Ginzan silver
mine (a World Heritage site), where a local guide interpreter led
us on a fascinating hike. I interpreted for our small group, and
learned much more that I'd discovered on my previous trip to Iwami.
Few people really realize how significant the silver mines were
in the context of world history from the 16 th century onwards.
From Arifuku we travelled to the little city of Matsue further
along the coast, where we stayed for three nights. Using Matsue
as a base, we took a very slow train to Izumo Grand Shrine. After
visiting the shrine we climbed Japanese tallest lighthouse, and
one of the oldest, at Hinomisaki. The next day we climbed to the
top of sacred Mount Daisen. We were buffeted by strong winds on
a ridge on top, but the quiet beech forests on the slopes of Daisen
looked gorgeous in their golden autumn colours.
Mount Daisen today
Clouds, wind, leaves gliding
One step … another
From Matsue we travelled, again by slow trains, to the pretty
hot spring town of Kinosaki. Our groups always love spending a
night or two here, as much for the scenery as the hot springs.
Artistic skills were much in evidence at the Tajima pottery, where
members made plates and a rather nice bonsai pot. These will fired
in the next few days.
Our next stop was Asuka, where we rented bikes to sightsee some
of the more important historical sites in an area where the state
of Yamato once existed.
A murder of crows
Over a burial mound
A sense of wabi
Walking ancient paths
A kingfisher flashes blue
Movement and stillness
Across the still pond
Flashes a blue kingfisher
So silent breathtaking!
The following day we hiked the Yamanobe no Michi. The last day
before Kyoto was spent exploring Nara in the company of our friendly
and knowledgeable guide, Yoko.
Crows talk in Nara
Rage in an old Buddha's ear
Disturbeth he not
Off to Kyoto
Ordering Japanese food
Time waits for no-one
Listen! The temple bell sounds
Going, going, gong
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