No Tourists in the Photo Please: Getting a Clean Shot in Picturesque Kyoto

The bamboo grove in Arashiyama which called me to Kyoto.

It was the image of a bamboo grove — with tall majestic bamboo stalks reaching up to meet the sky, jostling with each other for space and crowding out the sky, and a long, empty pathway winding itself under the bamboo — that literally called me to Kyoto, Japan. The image connected with my sense of inner peace. The green of the bamboo grove, was soothing, and also happens to be my favorite colour! I was determined to find the spot, and enjoy the peace and greenery, and take a few photos of my own!

Arashiyama — Trying for a Tourist-Free Bamboo Grove Photo

The bamboo grove is in Arashiyama, about 20 minutes by train from Kyoto city centre. It was my first point of call during my stay in April in the lovely city.

Armed with my guidebook, with my husband and eight-year old son in tow, I proudly boarded the right train and got off at the right station. By now I could see that many other tourists, like me, were disembarking at the same station. Instead of following the signposts, I followed the tourists, just as the guidebook had suggested!

I did come to my bamboo grove. It was green and beautiful! What I had not bargained for was the groups of people walking down the same path, or stopping in the middle to take photos. Given the sheer numbers of the people, I held on tight to my son’s hand. I did not want us to lose each other amongst these crowds of people.

I did connect with the greenery, but unsurprisingly I made no connection with my inner sense of peace. I did take many photos, mainly with the camera pointed to the sky to avoid people marring the photo!

Every tourist spot we went to in Kyoto had a similar story! Hundreds of tourists trudging along, taking in the sights, stopping to take selfies….

Being carried away by crowds in Gion

On the Way to Kiyomizu Temple — Being Carried Along by Crowds of People

The next afternoon, on our way to Kiyomizu Temple in Gion, was no different. Along the narrow, uphill cobbled paths, it seemed as if we were not moving, but the crowds were moving us. This time we were a group of five, having met up with a Japanese friend and her daughter. We had to split our group in order to make progress towards Kiyomizu Temple. The temple was beautiful with lovely cherry blossoms and other flowering trees in its gardens, and the bird eye view it offered over Kyoto was breathtaking. With some careful editing, I managed a couple of unobstructed photos.

The view of Kyoto from Kiyomizu Temple

In Search of a Picture of Just Uninterrupted Vermilion Gateways

Kyoto is famous for the Fushimi Inari Shine, depicted by seemingly endless vermilion walls. When you are at the site, you discover that these walls are made up of a series of over 10,000 vermilion gateways placed close to one another. The gateways march up to the top of a small mountain, covering about 4 km. I started out on this visit on my own. With hindsight, it was a good decision not to drag my son or husband here. By this time, they had both had had their fill of shrines and temples.

Try getting a picture without people in it!

Again, the numbers of tourists milling around was impressive. The gently raised steps, at least in the first few stations of the shrine gave a good workout. As the gateways marched higher up the hill, the steps increased in height, and the fit and less fit tourists could easily be told apart. I was puffed out and had given up trying to go higher, in search of that tourist-free shot.

Of course, the higher I went, the less people I saw. Just as I was ready to return to the starting point, I spied the last station (17). It was miraculously empty and I was able to get a couple of clear shots!

The higher you go, the fewer the people and the more chances of clean shots!