Going free & easy in Japan is the best! Why? You get to take your time to experience and immerse yourself in the rich heritage and culture of Japan instead of having to rush to keep up with the tour group. I will also be posting travel guides on how to get to the touristy locations, so stay tuned for that!
Arima is famous for its onsens and in particular the two public bathhouse – Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu. Kin no Yu (Arima golden hot-spring public spa) is tagged as Japan’s first holy spirit spring and it is the oldest hot spring in Japan. Located outside Kin no Yu, Taiko no Ashiyu is a Foot bath and best part of all… It’s FREE! There were so many Japanese indulging in the hot spring for feet that is high in sodium chloride and maintained at 42.3 degree Celsius where people say that it could heal bruises and muscle ache. Pretty cool huh?!
We spent about the whole morning at Arima till around 3pm where we made our way to the famous Kobe Motomachi Shopping Street and Nankinmachi (Kobe’s Chinatown). The shopping street spans approximately 1.2km with around 300+ stores between Motomachi and Kobe Station. Best part of the trip was to be able to immerse in the beautiful lights at Kobe Luminarie – an annual winter light-up held in memory of the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. Although we queued for at least 1 hour just to see the lights, it was all worth it! I must say that the Japanese are extremely patient as everyone queued up in an orderly fashion. Lastly, we concluded our Kobe exploration with the famous Kobe Beef! Though the portion is really small and it’s pretty expensive, the experience of tasting and seeing how the chef cook the meat in front of you is really amazing. No regrets.
After the rejuvenating trip to Nagano, we headed back to Ōsaka 大阪 – Japan’s second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo. Dōtonbori is definitely a must-go tourist spot to see the illuminated signboards, buzzling nightlife and entertainment area. Not forgetting the Instagrammable billboard for confectionery company Glico displaying the image of a runner crossing the finishing line. It is an icon of Osaka within Japan. We had our dinner there and headed back to rest and recharge for the next day’s adventure to take the Hozugawa River Cruise from Kameoka Station to Saga Arashiyama.
Hozugawa-kudari which stands for the Hozugawa River Boat ride was an eye-opening experience and the whole trip lasted for about 1.5 hours (be sure to empty your bladders before taking this ride!). The journey spans across 16km where a group of maximum 16 riders (winter boat) could go on board. The boatmen were amazing as we were all marveled by their strength and resilience as the group of 3 took turns to row the boat. They held on to bamboo poles to guide the boat away from rocks. You could also bring along snacks and drinks on board whilst enjoying the scenery. Great way to relax and soak yourself in the fresh winter air. Along the journey, the vast greenery and rocks with many interesting names like frog rock, book rock, headgear rock and many more were seen along the way. We sailed past rapids and mysterious deep pools.
Upon arrival to the end point at the Saga Arashiyama 嵐山, we could see the famous Togetsukyo Bridge (“Moon Crossing Bridge”) – well-known, central landmark. There are many small smalls and restaurants nearby leading up to the bamboo groves. The Bamboo Groves are walking paths that makes a nice place to stroll after lunch. However, there were too many tourists and it was difficult to take a photo with no one behind. Perhaps walking all the way into the groves might grant you access to take many beautiful photographs, but we decided to head over to the Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社 instead.
It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates which leads to the sacred Mt.Inari. Along the trail, there were many fox statues. Why? They are thought to be Inari’s messengers and Inari is the Shinto god of rice. The entire trail of torii gates were donated by individuals and companies. The donor’s name and date of donation are inscribed on the back of each gate. Admission is free and it is open 24/7 should you wish to take a stroll in the majestic sea of torii gates. Though I am assuming that it might get a little creepy when it’s dark and definitely not a destination for the faint-hearted. Other than that, I would give this whole Arashiyama experience an 8/10!