Exploring The Arashiyama Neighborhood
Arashiyama stands out as one of the most beautiful parts of Kyoto. Located in the western part of the city, it is not connected to the rest of the city’s tourist sites, and therefore can be easily missed. That would be a shame so be sure to make the journey out and explore one of Japan’s finest neighborhoods.
While many of the temples in Kyoto of a serene peace to them, the entire Arashiyama area is full of it since it sits outside the bustling city center. Often the only noise you hear is the trickling flow of a nearby creek. Buildings only compliment the nature that surrounds it.
The Ōi RiverRiver is a terrific place to begin your adventure and get you in the mood for the day ahead. The Togetsukyo Bridge (or moon crossing bridge) crosses the river and allows you to visit the Monkey Park located on the other side. Located on top of one of the hills, it provides a great view of Kyoto in addition to making some new friends.
Back to the other side of the bridge is the Tenryu-ji Temple and its wonderful Zen gardens. You can view these gardens from inside the main hall, or venture out into the walking paths. The temple dates back to 1339 and although fires burned down the original structure (a common theme in Japanese Temples) it is not hard to imagine these buildings really being that old.
There are many things to see and do in Arashiyama. The most famous is the Sagano Bamboo Groves and with good reason. Located next to Tenryu-ji Temple you suddenly feel closer to nature standing amongst the towering trunks as you hear nothing other than a slight wind blowing through the forest as it almost sings to you. If you do want to avoid the crowds, show up early in the day.
Near the other end of the bamboo groves from the Tenryu-ji Temple is the Ōkōchi Sansō. It is the former residence of Japanese film star Ōkōchi Denjirō and includes a traditional tea house and some great views of Kyoto.
From there it is time to go Temple hopping. In short succession you can visit Jojakkoji, Nisonin, and Gioji Temples. Each one has a distinct look and feel, but all bring the same calming serenity. The nearby Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple is famous for having 1,200 statues of Rakan. Another must see is Daikakuji Temple which dates back to the 800’s. It has a copy of the Heart Sutra which is a handwritten note by Emperor Saga along with the nearby Osawa Pond.
Along with temples, Arashiyama has some of the best preserved streets in historic Kyoto. The Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street has traditional machiyas (homes) along with shops and eateries.
For a tour of the area take a trip on the The Sagano Scenic Railway. The old fashioned sightseeing trains slowly make their way through rustic terrain and provide outstanding views, particularly during the autumn season.
Arashiyama is a wonderful side trip within the city of Kyoto. Most people will want to devote at least a half-day to explore the area and you can easily spend the entire day exploring all it has to offer.
The fastest way to arrive is by train from Kyoto Station. Take the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station and only takes 15 minutes. Bus will take longer but can be access by lines 11,28, or 93.