THE bamboo forests of Sagano in Arashiyama look wonderfully serene in photographs. Often they are depixted with mist gently settling around the green, ringed stems that silently reach to the heavens.
Well, it’s not the case in real life.
It’s a sea of people of all shapes and walks of life, plodding, cycling, running and generally working in opposition to the unmoving bamboo that reaches up like a green wall.
If you look upwards, you get a chance to dodge the unruly masses. Or maybe if you get there well before the tour buses disgorge the boisterous folks who do have bamboo forests and pandas back home.
As you walk along this slalom course of people taking photos and stopping to catch their breath you’ll eventually leave the hubbub behind and find yourself in quieter neighbourhoods.
About half an hour away you’ll come upon Koto-en, a pottery shop that has a range of traditional and contemporary items on display.
The welcoming committee includes large, glazed tanuki– the impish raccoon dogs of Japan — owls, frogs, pots and much else besides.
Hasegawa Syouichi is the CEO of Koto-en, a branch of the Soto-en kilns of Shigaraki. This ceramic town in the southern part of Shiga prefecture, adjoining Kyoto, has six of the oldest kilns in Japan and is known for its good clay.
That pedigree carries through to the Kyoto branch, where Hasegawa is quite content to let customers wander through and appreciate the creations in his atelier.
“There will be one that connects with you,” he reckons.
Hasegawa, who runs the atelier with his son, says people do not hold on to keepsakes like they used to.
In his backyard overlooking a bamboo grove is a kiln that can produce 200 cups a day.
“Not every day, of course,” he says with a smile.
There are attempts to keep with the times. There’s a ceramic horn that you can slot your smart phone into, and it will serve as an amplifier.
But with smartphones growing in size, it’s going to be hard to keep that horn blowing forever. But it would still look good on a shelf.
Koto-en is located at 15-2Chojin-cho, Nison-in-monzen, Saga, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan T:+81758722134