Getting lost can be frightening, and at the least provokes anxiety. But getting lost can be good because it compels one in adventures and directions one would not have undertaken otherwise.
Take today. Normally, I am pretty good with maps, and have a good sense of direction. But there is something about being a functional illiterate in Japan that keeps throwing me when I try to read the maps. Either that, or the maps are intentionally confounding. But let’s face it, Kyoto has maze-like aspects in any case.
Getting back to today, it was supposed to rain. So I started out by exploring the Kyoto Nishiki food market. As Chris Rowthorn, the author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kyoto puts it, “There is something strangely enjoyable about touring a food market where over half the goods on display are utterly baffling (is it a food, a spice, or some sort of Christmas tree decoration?)”
By the time I left the covered Nishiki Market it had started to rain lightly. I walked over to the Hankyu Kyoto train line station, planning to change to the Keifuku Arashiyama Line, with a last stop near temples and the Bamboo Forest. I checked with the nice man overseeing the gate to make sure I was going the right way, he even pointed to the track for me.
As it happens, the train on the track was an express, and before I knew it we had zoomed across the Katsuragawa River, and were rushing away from central Kyoto. Since the rain had turned into a downpour I figured that being on a train wasn’t so bad, but I was definitely in the process of getting lost.
To make a longish story short, I got off at the first stop the express came to, and with the help of some nice youths wearing some kind of uniform took a different train route up the west side of the Katsuragawa River on the local Hankyu-Arashiyama Line. The hard rain had stopped, and the landscape was fresh and moist.
I was off my map, beyond metropolitan Kyoto, and I after the last train stop I had to cross a bridge onto an island, walk up the island, and cross another bridge. Not so hard, because I was following the crowds.
Did I mention they have lots of crowds here, and lots of festivals as well? I had a great deal of fun being lost and getting found, and snacking my way from the Arashiyama street stalls.
When I got there I found that the Bamboo Forest is more path than forest, with taxis, rickshaws, couples being photographed in wedding dress and tux, and plenty of tourists and well as locals, with a loud train line running nearby. It was quite beautiful anyhow.