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There is a very beautiful painting at the Saga – Arashiyama station towards the western reaches of Kyoto city. On close proximity, I pondered over the piece of art for a good amount of time, trying to understand the intentions of the artist while identifying elements of the painting that its maker has created with much care and great precision. In Japan, all four seasons are unique, with spring and autumn being the two most beautiful times of the year to witness the pinkish wonder of cherry blossoms and the ageing of the leaves. The painting can then represent Hanami, or the cherry blossom festival and Momijigari, an autumnal event that celebrates the onset of red and yellow leaves – both of which sees widespread celebrations throughout the country. Much of Japan is captured through the depiction of women with the ornamental Kanzashi (hair pin) adorning their hair tied into a neat bun, bow-belted kimono, wooden slippers, melodious flutes and the Akomeogi, more commonly known to us as the Japanese folding fan.
Even to a person such as myself with no special knowledge of Japanese art, I was amazed at the knowlege, skill and patience that gives rise to various artworks in ink and paint on many different kinds of paper. The most famous of these are the one stroke brush paintings and I would strongly recommend my readers to spend 1 minute 38 seconds of their time to see this NatGeo video on the finesse and poise that goes behind making these paintings so very beautiful and unique to Japan. I can promise you that it will be the best thing you will have seen today.
Arashiyama, a good distance from the city centre is a place of retreat for lovers of Buddhist-Shinto shrines, arching bridges, hand-made soba noodles, and of course, the much renowned bamboo grove. A place of scenic beauty, the undulating terrain of Arashiyama is surrounded by low lying mountain ranges and forest reserves. The Ōi river flows past many Zen Buddhist temples, ryokans and fishing villages. According to me, the best time to visit the groves would be early in the morning because during this time, the long and slender bamboo stalks look fresh, young and green.
The Japanese, since times immemorial have shared an intimate relationship with the natural world and have coined phrases such as `man in harmony with nature’. The bamboo forest finds its place in Japanese folk art, hand-made crafts, kimono designs and tourist postcards. December brings the arrival of the Hanatoro festival and the entire bamboo grove is lit with thousands of brightly coloured lanterns. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be!
Through narrow paths and winding roads, the walk in the forest is truly enchanting with stunning views at every turn. In the midst of lonely forest-ways, diffused sunlight and lofty bamboo shoots, I was simply at peace.