Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The beauty of Arashiyama in Kyoto


The other day in Kyoto, living a Travelife, we checked out of our ryokan -- supposedly the best traditional inn in Japan, if not in the world -- to stay at the holiday home of a friend in the neighborhood of Saga, in the hills around Arashiyama in Kyoto.



THE WOW FACTOR

This friend has lots of holiday homes, but two stand out in my memory: one is in the very tony holiday resort town of Karuizawa in northern Japan, and the other is this one in Arashiyama, at one end of Kyoto.


Both are huge homes because they used to be holiday villas owned by multinational companies for their employees; when these multinational companies began cost-cutting, he bought these from them and had them refurbished, and now the luxury Japanese hotel chain Hoshino is managing these for him.

So basically, when you stay at his home, you're getting the services of a top ryokan, including a very good breakfast and butler services.


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REASONS FOR A VISIT



Anyway, we decided to go to Arashiyama just because it's so pretty in the fall and there was this invitation to stay at my friend's home. We also wanted to walk around the great Zen temple of  Tenryuji again and to seek out the villa of "fallen persimmons" nearby, which was once owned by one of the top ten disciples of the great Japanese haiku poet Matsuo Basho.

I like Basho a lot, and he reportedly visited this particular villa, to see his friend, several times.

The villa of "fallen persimmons"

A PERFECT DAY IN KYOTO

When we arrived at my friend's house, it was such a perfect day in Kyoto and he had a bunch of bicycles; so we all took bicycles and cycled around the entire Arashiyama area -- and beyond. I used to visit Arashiyama a lot in a previous lifetime, but I hadn't been at all recently. It was nice to see everything again.



What a beautiful place this neighborhood of Saga is, just behind the Tenryuji temple. I never thought I would want to own a vacation home in Kyoto, and I certainly am not attracted to owning a machiya, which is a dark and narrow wooden house usually found in the center of Kyoto.

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THE KYOTO DREAM

Many foreigners dream of owning and fixing up machiya but I'm not one of them, although I like staying in the top machiya ryokan of Kyoto for a night or two.

But on that day, bicycling around Saga, I actually had house envy.  Everything was so picturesque, with so much beauty in the small details. And in this historic neighborhood, I saw some of the most tasteful houses in Japan.



As far as Philippine holiday homes go, these Kyoto houses aren't very big. But these have such a wonderful patina of history and culture, acquired through generations and generations of existing in a world of depth and beauty.



Watch out for our one-on-a-kind Kyoto supplement in an upcoming issue of TRAVELIFE Magazine.

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