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Arashiyama is a beautiful and historic district on the northwestern outskirts of Kyoto. Arashiyama itself is a great tourist attraction and I’d recommend you come spend the day here exploring all it has to offer. Arashiyama is a ‘Nationally Designated Historic Site’ by the Japanese government's agency for cultural affairs. It’s also a 'Place of Scenic Beauty' as the surrounding mountains and little back streets are very pretty and traditional.
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Arashiyama has several main tourist attractions. I’m sure you’ve heard about, or seen images of the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which is a forest of Bamboo. It’s pretty, but I will guide you to the less touristy places in Arashiyama.
Arashiyama Bamboo forest/grove is a natural bamboo forest that has been preserved well and is considered an integral part of the beauty of Arashiyama. Take a stroll around here and take some cool photos!
Another famous attraction in Arashiyama is the Iwatayama monkey park. It’s essentially an area in the mountains where the wild Japanese monkeys hang out, and you can feed them and take pictures of them as well as see amazing views over Kyoto.
Starting from Arashiyama station and heading up north is the high street, where you can find many restaurants, street food vendors and souvenir shops. The high street will be the main thing you’ll see as you get out of the station, and it’s fun to walk around here and buy snacks and souvenirs.
If you head 200m south of Arashiyama station on the main street, you’ll reach the famous Togetsu-kyo bridge which, in the spring and autumn, allows excellent views of the mountains in cherry blossom (Sakura) or red autumn leaves (koyo). The bridge goes over the river Katsura and onto the Arashiyama Park Nakashima area, which is a small little island on the river where you can hang out and enjoy the views.
A bicycle that I artfully placed for the sakes of a good photo, by the Arashiyama park and Togetsu-kyo bridge. You can see the leaves are starting to turn red. This photo was taken early Autumn
One of my favourite things to do in Arashiyama is to head north up the Katsura river, on foot or by bicycle, and admire the amazing mountainous scenery and tranquillity. You can even hire little Japanese style long boats and cruise around the river. The Katsura river runs right through Arashiyama so it's not hard to find. During the summer they have dinner boats floating around which you can also hire.
a 15 minute walk up Katsura river and the scenery turns beautiful. I took this photo in early Autumn, just a few days before the leaves start changing colour
One of the river boats punts its way up the River. You can see some of the leaves starting to change...
A 20/30 mins walk up along the Katsura River and you'll reach steps to the stunning Daihikaku Senko-ji, or commonly known just as Senko-ji, is a zen temple up in the hills of Arashiyama. Considered by many as the best view in Kyoto, it is definitely worth the walk and short hike up the stairs. The temple has a fantastic observation deck that looks over Kyoto and the mountains. It is especially beautiful in Autumn, and indeed Spring.
►Admission fee: 400 yen
►Opening hours: General Admission: 10:00 - 16:00, (09:00 – 17:00 in spring and fall)
Saga Toriimoto (preserved street) is a great place to explore as the streets themselves are preserved and protected. The result is that all the buildings and temples here are beautiful and old. Even some of the roofs on the buildings are traditional thatching. Spend the afternoon wandering Saga Toriimoto and Atago-Kaido Street. It’s about a 30/40-minute uphill walk north-west from Arashiyama station.
Also worth a visit is Adashino Mayamura, which is a little museum of dolls made from the natural silk cocoon. The cocoons are made from insects and the dolls are handmade. Fascinating!
A very interesting little temple in Arashiyama. As you walk up the Saga Toriimoto (Preserved street), on your left, quite high up, you'll see the entrance of Adashino Nenbutsuji, a very beautiful and mysterious temple.
The temple has around 8000 Buddhist statuettes, which commemorate the bodies and souls of the dead. Since the Heian period, people abandoned the bodies of the dead here, exposing them to the elements. The statues were then used after this period, to commemorate the dead. It is a very beautiful and somewhat spooky place. Knowing that thousands and thousands of bodies have been left in the area without proper burial sounds like the start of a horror film.
≈ Adashino Nenbutsuji is a 30/40 min walk from the Arashiyama main area and stations. So do consider this is you want to visit, it is a bit of a schlep.
►Admission: 500 yen
►Opening hours: 9:00 a.m - 4:30 p.m - March to November
9:00 a.m - 3:30 p.m - December to February
9:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m - Saturdays and bank holidays in April, May, October and November