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In a Bamboo Forest... / 13 April 2011

Bamboo: growing, felled and stored

Bamboo: growing, felled and stored. Photo © Gini

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Think Japanese
think technology.
Yet here I sit
with no wi-fi
in a modern
hotel in Kyoto;
lost without

Another clear and sunny day; Japan is warming up. Being in a hotel has focused me on some different things: I notice the little green circles with white crosses marking maps with refuge points, places to gather if the earth quakes badly. And I find the rechargeable torch by my hotel bed, together with the Gideon Bible and Teachings of Buddha.

The earthquakes that still remind Tokyo dwellers of danger, are not felt here. To all intents and purposes life has returned to normal. The separate, and incompatible, power system in the west of Japan means there is no power-saving here.

The only daily reminder is the gold-framed notice in the hotel foyer expressing sympathy. And while Japan's "renewing, rebuilding" mantra is repeated here, the emphasis often seems to be more on forms of conservation.

Saga-Arashiyama is today's destination. The local train worked well yesterday, so going to see the Bamboo Forest has become possible.

We have the Japanese buffet breakfast, I'm working my way through varieties of seaweed and vegetables with variations on egg and fish, followed by fresh fruit. My favourite dish is a fish custard; made with prawns and straight from the cooking, it's delicious.

Arriving at Saga-Arashiyama, and heading for the forest, I am surprised by the crowds of tourists, but the explanation is soon obvious: the wide river with a wonderful avenue of cherry trees. It looks amazing and warrants a detour; the trees are in full blossom, the day is warm and windy and blossom swirls around us like snow.

I just have to try out a Japanese ice-cream that has five flavours. It proves to be enormous and I start to giggle, soon all the people around me are laughing too. The first layer is vanilla, then green tea, cherry blossom, sesame and finally, possibly roast tea. Some good, some not.

Then more detours: shrines and gardens intercept our path to the bamboo, but eventually we get there. Cool and elegant, bamboo 40cms or more in diameter and tall, so very, very tall, whispers secretively in the breeze. Quite magical.

The forest is on a hill, but the path through is tarmac and travelled by locals in cars as well as tourists in rick-shaws and taxis. The climb is steep, sometimes scary in the lightweight powerchair, but exhilarating.

Being surrounded by these blue-grey giants is like being in a fairy-tale. Here and there, where the sun creeps through, bright camellias bloom.

The countryside in this part of Japan is stunning; hilly and tree covered, it provides a glorious tapestry of spring colours as a backdrop to the whole Kyoto experience. And it is reflected everywhere, giving me lots of ideas to take back.