Our last day in Kyoto was spent in Arashiyama. We took the subway from Gion to Arashiyama, walked across the Togetsukyo-bridge and headed straight for the bamboo forest, having decided to skip the Tenryuji temple.
Spotted an unusual bloom in a flower bed just off the main streets.
A beautiful two-toned camelia. It looks perfect.
This is my second visit to the Arashiyama bamboo forest, the first visit was in 2006. Nothing has changed, it looks the same as how I remember it to be. The bamboo forest is a fairly small and self-contained area, just follow the path and everyone ahead of you.
The other bamboo forest that I have visited is the one in Damyang, Korea, and it is several times bigger than the Arashiyama one. The Damyang bamboo forest is definitely worth a visit as a day-trip if you are in Gwangju and have some time to spare.
At the end of the bamboo forest is the Okochi Sanso Villa, a traditional Japanese house with beautiful and lush landscaped grounds that used to belong to a famous Japanese silent movie star.
The lush gardens and driveway leading to the main residence.
We hiked around the grounds for a bit, climbing up and down narrow stone path ways circling the gardens, before heading back to the bamboo forest to make our way back to the main streets to eat lunch at Hirokawa.
If you are looking to escape the crowds in the main Arashiyama streets, the Okochi Sanso Villa is a perfect hideout. It is serene, calming and a calming place to enjoy channel your inner Zen.
If you are planning to visit Arashiyama and love unajyu, please include Hirokawa in your itinerary! Having been around since 1967, the famous traditional eel restaurant is now located in a beautifully designed sukiya (wooden architecture) building right across the street from Tenryuji Temple and the entrance to the bamboo forest. We spotted the sukiya quite easily after our morning excursion to the bamboo forest and the Okochi Villa.
I looked up Hirokawa’s menu online before visiting the restaurant so I already knew what I wanted to eat. Unajyu and boiled loaches (the dish known as Yanagawa on the menu)! Hirokawa’s unajyu comes in five different sizes (small, medium, large, extra large, kids), or you could choose to have one whole eel without rice and eaten with a dipping sauce. There were other tempting side dishes as well but I had my mind firmly set on boiled loaches. I was extremely curious to find out how loaches taste like. I have never seen this fish in Singapore before.
We managed to get a seat after waiting in line for approximately 45 minutes, without a reservation. We ordered one unajyu (medium; 2,900 Yen) each and shared a Yanagawa (boiled loaches served in a broth and scrambled eggs).
The Yanagawa came first and we tucked into the tasty hot soup which had a herbal flavour to it. I didn’t know what to expect of boiled loaches; I thought they were a lighter-tasting version of eel.
Unajyu served in a beautiful lacquer box. Delicious! Even the husband who doesn’t like unajyu ate up every morsel in the box. He finds unagi too ‘fishy’ for him and unajyu too sweet, the sauce overwhelming his tastebuds. Hirokawa’s version is just perfect for us, their special sauce complements the eel and rice very well. Not too sweet, yet sufficiently so to combat the strong flavour of the grilled eel, bringing down the level of ‘fishy-ness’ of the dish.