Kyoto Area Guide: Arashiyama 嵐山
Arashiyama is among the most famous spots in Kyoto and all of Japan. It is best known for Tenryuji Temple (pictured at right), its bamboo forest, the Oi river, Togetsukyo Bridge, the Sagano Romantic ("Torokko") Train, as a wonderful place to stroll, and for its Monkey Park.
Arashiyama is a great day out, and can be walked in either half a day or whole day.
Here is a suggested Walk Itinerary.
If you arrive on Hankyu Railways, walk from the Hankyu Arashiyama Station and cross the Togetsukyo Bridge (literally: "moon crossing bridge"). If you arrive on the Keifuku Railways, get off at the last stop (Arashiyama), go out the station, and turn left on the main drag. There is some good shopping and, going the other way, a few places of interest. However, much of the street is on the tacky side.
Walk about 200 meters to the Togetsukyo Bridge. It spans the Oi River. Looking across to the far side you will see a small collection of buildings nestled at the foot of the mountain and wooden Japanese style boats moored at docks. (Monkey Park is a bit of a hike up the mountain.) Looking west, you get a beautiful view of the river and Mt. Arashiyama.
From here, stay on the same side of the river, cross the street (carefully), and head north. The river will be on your left. Walk straight and continue beyond a ryokan (inn) on your right. At this point turn right and walk away from the river and into the neighborhood. You will enter walled streets and head towards Tenryuji Temple.
After seeing Tenryuji, a World Heritage site, go out the exit to the main street. You will now be a bit north of the Keifuku Railways station. Turn left and walk about 200 meters. Turn left onto a narrow street lined with galleries and an ice cream shop. This will lead you to the bamboo forest (pictured above right).
The forest is deep and mysterious, no matter how many other tourists you share it with.
Okochi Sanso Villa
At the far end of the forest, beyond Nonomiya Shrine, is the magnificent Okochi Sanso Villa. This was the second home of the great Japanese movie star Denjiro Okochi.
The Villa took years to build and has wonderful gardens (pictured below).
From the exit of the villa, turn left. You will cross the tracks of the JR Saiin Line. This will take you through a well-heeled neighborhood and large open fields. The Torokko Arashiyama Station is close by. You can take the tourist train with its open windows through gorges and tunnels.
The train is a retired JR diesel locomotive and open-sided cars. It is 600 yen for adults, 300 yen for children. It takes roughly 25 minutes one way (and then you will need to ride back if you want to continue on in Arashiyama).
For those who want to press on, a beautiful walk awaits. The temples along the way - Jojakkoji, Nison-in, Danrinji - are not famous. However, the area drips atmosphere: old walls, bamboo, maple, well preserved homes.
You will now come to the Sagano Doll House. Beyond this, follow the narrow road up and up, past old machiya-like homes.
The last two stops on the full-day walk are the Kyoto Okusaga Shoji Photo Museum and Adashino Nenbutsu Temple.
The latter has thousands of Buddhist statuettes. If you are fortunate enough to be in Kyoto during the Bon period - in mid-August when the souls of one's ancestors return to earth on their annual visit - the entire place is lit up at night with candles. The Sento Kuyo festival is held in late August at the temple from 5:30 - 8:30 pm. It is magic. (Check with the Tourist Office in Kyoto for the exact dates.)
Now it is time to retrace your steps back to the central part of Arashiyama. Green tea ice cream or the foot baths at the Keifuku Arashiyama Station are highly recommended.
For the very ambitious - or those with children - a side trip is to walk to the monkey park. Iwatayama Monkey Park houses roughly 150 monkeys. They are wild monkeys native to Japan, but are used to people.
Walk Itinerary: Togetsukyo Bridge - Tenryuji Temple - Bamboo Forest - Okochi Sanso Villa - Torokko Arashiyama Station (half day ends here) - Sagano Doll House - Kyoto Okusaga Shoji Photo Musuem - Adashino Nenbutsu Temple.
Hankyu Railways: Take the train to the last stop, Hankyu Arashiyama Station. If you are coming from central Kyoto or Osaka, you will need to change at Katsura. A short walk to Togetsukyo Bridge.
Keifuku Railways: Ride to the last stop, Arashiyama.
JR Sanin Line: (Sagano Line) From Kyoto Station, take a local train to Saga Arashiyama Station.
Bus: Best avoided because of traffic jams. From Kyoto Station, stop C6, take bus 71, 72, or 73.
For a full listing of Kyoto Museums & Art Galleries click here
There is a range of accommodation options in Arashiyama. On the north side of the Katsura River, just to the west of the Togetsukyo Bridge, are several four- and five-star, luxury ryokan, offering superb service, traditional Japanese food, river views and private onsen. These include Ryotei Rangetsu, Arashiyama Benkei, Ranzan and Suiran Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto.