TRAVEL

10 Things To See And Do In Arashiyama

March 4, 2018

When you think of Kyoto’s Arashiyama, the first thought that comes to mind is most definitely the famed Bamboo Forest. Tourists from all over the world flock here just to see it, making it one of the busiest tourist districts in Kyoto. While it serves as the main attraction in this quaint little suburb, there are numerous things to see and do here as well. I have only ever discovered Arashiyama for half a day but here is a list of top things to see and do if you’re ever in the area.

What To See And Do

1. Marvel at the beauty of the Bamboo Forest
No trip to Arashiyama is complete without a visit to the famous Bamboo Forest. Walking along a path lined with these spectacular towering trees, you can’t help but feel so small. These bamboo, to this day, are still being used in manufacturing various products in local workshops, so you’ll notice some freshly cut bamboo here and there.

There are plenty of signages pointing you in the right direction but on the off chance you aren’t able to find it, the Bamboo Forest is located within close proximity to the Tenryu-ji Temple. There’s no admission fee and it is accessible at any time of the day. I would, however, strongly recommend getting here early in the morning (its how i got these pictures) so that you’ll have unobstructed shots as well as getting the proper chance to take in all of it’s beauty.

2. Experience a little zen and visit the many surrounding temples
Like with most of Kyoto, the abundance of temples around the area is never-ending, as small or as big as they may be. I only visited the Tenryu-ji Temple during both trips and even though it was somewhat packed with tourists during my recent visit, it still felt like i was being enveloped by a blanket of inner peace. Maybe its the fact that the visual is always so calming, or that visitors tend to respect the space by keeping their volume to a minimum. Either way, visit the many surrounding temples in Arashiyama if you’re looking for a pause from the rush of the outside world.

Below is a list of top temples around the area, though you’ll also find a couple other neighbouring sites along the way.

Location:
Tenryu-ji Temple
6 8 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8385
Open 7 days, 8.30am-5pm
Admission: Adults – 500yen, children – 300yen (garden only), additional 300yen for access to buildings
Nearest station: Arashiyama station (Keifuku Railway line)

Jojakko-ji Temple
3 Sagaogurayama Oguracho
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8397
Open 7 days, 9am-5pm
Admission: 500yen
Nearest station: Arashiyama station (Keifuku Railway line)

Nison-in Temple
27 Saganisonin Monzen Chojincho
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8425
Open 7 days, 9am-4.30pm
Admission: Adults – 500yen, children (12yrs and below) – free
Nearest station: Arashiyama station (Keifuku Railway line)

Adashino Nenbutsu-ji  Temple
17 Sagatoriimoto Adashinocho
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8436
Open 7 days, 9am-4.30pm
Admission: Adults – 500yen

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
2-5 Sagatoriimoto Fukatanicho
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8439
Open 7 days, 8am-5pm
Admission: Adults – 300yen

Giou-ji Temple
32 Sagatoriimoto Kozakacho
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8435
Open 7 days, 9am-5pm
Admission: Adults – 300yen, children – 100yen, optional combined admission with Daikaku-ji Temple – 600yen
Nearest station: Arashiyama station (Keifuku Railway line)

Daikaku-ji Temple
4 Sagaosawacho
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8411
Open 7 days, 9am-5pm
Admission: Adults – 500yen, children/students – 300yen, additional 200yen for access to the pond
Nearest station: Saga-Arashiyama station (JR line)

3. Take a trip down memory lane and visit the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street
Imagine getting to relive Japan from the olden days and walking down a street with the architecture and style of the Meiji period. The Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street is lined with traditional townhouses (or machiya in Japanese) that were once residential properties but have since been converted to shops and restaurants. The Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street can be found on the way to the Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple.

4. Wander around both sides of Arashiyama by crossing over the Togetsukyo Bridge
While it is only natural to spend more time on the main street of Arashiyama, take a chance and wander around the other side of the Hozu River. It may be relatively quiet on this end but you are greeted by mountains and parks. The Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is also located on this side of the river.

5. See the macaque monkeys at play at the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
Japan is well-known for their snow monkeys, also called macaque, and i’m pretty sure you would have seen a picture of these monkeys bathing in hot springs during winter at some point in your life. Rest assured, this place isn’t one of those establishments that exploit the use of animals for the generation of income. The roles are actually reversed in this case – the monkeys are free to roam around whereas visitors are actually in a caged box. Tickets are purchased through a vending machine at the entrance and then it is a 30min uphill hike to the monkeys’ location. Once you reach the top though, you are welcomed with sweeping views of the city and a sight of playful monkeys frolicking about.

Location:
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
61 Arashiyama Nakaoshitacho
Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 616-0004
Open 7 days, 9am-4.30pm
Admission: Adults (16yrs and over) – 550yen, children – 250yen
Nearest station: Hankyu Arashiyama station (Hankyu Railway line)

6. Rent a bicycle and explore Arashiyama in a unique way
If you’re not a walking kind of person, or you simply want to try something different, what better way than to rent a bicycle during your visit to Arashiyama. Bike rentals are located near or in train stations, making it convenient both for picking them up and dropping them off. Some places might ask for a valid form of ID before proceeding, so it is probably best to have your passport on hand. Prices for a standard bicycle usually range between 500-1,000yen depending on the hours you rent them for, and most places offer the choice between a standard or an electronic bicycle.

Side note – make sure you abide by the rules and the street etiquette once you’re out and about!

Location:
Hankyu Rent-a-cycle
(across from Hankyu Arashiyama station)
8-3 Arashiyama Nishiichikawacho
Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 616-0003
Open 7 days, 9am-6pm (accurate timings on website)
Price range: 500-900yen

Ranbura Rental Bicycle
(located in the Randen Arashiyama station building)
Open 7 days, 9am-5pm
Price range: 500-1,500yen

Railwayman Bicycle Rental
(located in the Saga Torokko station compound)
Open 7 days, 9am-5pm (overnight rentals available)
Price range: 800-1,700yen

7. Feel the calmness of Arashiyama at dawn
Getting up before sunrise (especially on a vacation) is quite possibly the hardest thing to do, but trust me when i say that the rewards are well worth it. Imagine arriving to this scene with pink skies and the fresh morning air, the locals still tucked away in bed and well before the tourist crowd sets in. It’ll give you a different feeling altogether and you get to feel the calmness that Arashiyama has to offer before the madness begins. My favourite spot is along the Hozu River, where the colours of the sky is reflected on the water and the stillness influences a sense of momentary serenity.

8. Enjoy the scenic river views of Arashiyama by boat or railway
Another option for those that have plenty of time to kill is enjoying a scenic river tour, either by railway or by boat. The most common route that people tend to take is by departing using the railway and returning via boat ride.

The Sagano Romantic train is a 25min journey along the Hozu river and begins from the Saga Torokko station (adjacent to the JR Saga-Arashiyama station) towards Kameoka Torokko station, cruising at a speed of 25km/h over 7km of tracks. The train was originally used to carry cargo but has since been repurposed to a special sightseeing train. It runs during all seasons so passengers can enjoy the change in foliage and a short escape from the modern world.

The Hozu River Boat Tour takes approximately 2hrs over 16km of serene waters, passing by multiple rock formations that you otherwise won’t be able to see on land. It starts from the Hozugawa-kudari boarding site and ends at the Togetsukyo Bridge. They operate rain or shine (with the exception of severe rainstorms or water level rising) but don’t go expecting a fancy river cruise. Passengers will be sitting on a floor mat and in the case of winter, a transparent vinyl will be encasing the boat, providing warmth and shelter with the aid of a heater.

For more information:
Sagano Romantic Train
Closed Wednesdays (click above for timetable)
One way fare: Adults – 620yen, children – 310yen

Hozu River Boat Tour
Open 7 days (click above for timetable)
One way fare: Adults (13yrs and above) – 4,100yen, children – 2,700yen

9. Fill your weight with street eats and local specialities
You’ll never go hungry in Arashiyama as there are a lot of stalls selling street snacks as well as restaurants lining the area.

P/s If you haven’t tried ice-cream in winter, trust me when i say that it is one of the best experiences ever. You can thank me later.

10. Check out the local goods and craft on sale
The main street provides plenty of shops to get your retail therapy fix and while most items are pretty pricey, they are mostly handmade and make great gifts. Here you’ll find plenty of cute souvenirs and bamboo baskets in all shapes and sizes, on top of the usual pottery and household goods.

How To Get Here

There are three different train lines to get to Arashiyama and they arrive/depart at different stations respectively, each exuding their own charm. It takes about 15-20mins from central Kyoto and a one way journey normally costs around 200-250yen. Buses and cars aren’t recommended due to traffic congestion and will likely result in a longer travel time, so trains are your best bet.

Hankyu Arashiyama Station (Hankyu Railway)
Take the Hankyu-Kyoto line from the Karasuma station towards Hankyu-Umeda. The train will arrive at Katsura station and will automatically switch to the Hankyu-Arashiyama line bound for Arashiyama. You will not need to disembark the train but listen to instructions in case something has changed.

The Hankyu Arashiyama station is located on the opposite side of the river and you will need to cross the Togetsukyo Bridge to get to the main street. Don’t forget to stop and admire the old furnishings and fittings of the station. It looks better lit up though – i arrived at dawn and it felt like i just got off Hogwarts Express!

Randen Arashiyama Station (Keifuku Railway)
Take the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama line from the Shijo-Omiya station bound for Arashiyama. It is a direct train (albeit slower) that takes about 25mins and you’ll get a nice glimpse of quaint suburbs outside of central Kyoto.

The Arashiyama station is most convenient in terms of location as it is located right on the main street. The station itself has a wide variety of food options and also houses the Kimono Forest, an installation (located near the platform) that is spectacular both day and night.

Saga-Arashiyama Station (Japan Railway)
Take the San-In line from Kyoto station bound for Arashiyama. This is a JR train so you’ll be able to use your JR pass. The Saga-Arashiyama station is about a 10min walk to the main street.

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