If you are thinking about visiting Kyoto, Arashiyama, located on the western outskirts of Kyoto is a must go. It has a lot of tourist spots and experiences that you can’t have anywhere else in Kyoto, for example explore the famous bamboo forest, rent a boat and sail on the Katsura River and visit some of the most beautiful zen gardens, temples and shrines. Even if you are not strongly interested in typical Japanese tourist spots such as temples or shrines, you can have a great time there while surrounded by plenty of nature. There are several great hiking options suitable to all levels hikers. The area is beautiful all year around but hugely popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons. In this article, we will tell you how to get there and places to visit in order to make the most of your time in Kyoto!
How to get to Arashiyama
There are two ways to get to Arashiyama area from the centre of Kyoto; you can use the public transportation or if you are feeling more adventurous you can rent a bicycle and cycle to Arashiyama in about 30 minutes.
Getting to Arashiyama by train
The fastest way to access Arashiyama is by train, and if you have the JR Pass it is also the cheapest. If you want to use JR, you can take the JR Sanin-honsen Sagano Line from Kyoto Station. There is no need to change trains, as it goes directly to JR Saga-Arashiyama Station from where you can start exploring the Arashiyama area. It takes around 16 minutes and costs ¥240 per adult.
If you prefer to take the subway, you can take Karasuma Line from Kyoto station and transfer to the Hankyu Electric Railway Kyoto-honsen at Shijo station. You need to continue your journey and change again at Katsura Station to Arashiyama Line. It may sound complicated as you need to change trains. However, some people this way since Arashiyama station is slightly closer to the main tourist attractions in Arashiyama.
Getting to Arashiyama by bicycle
From the centre of Tokyo you can also travel to Arashiyama by bicycle. The trip takes about 45 minutes which is a bit long, but one of the most convenient and enjoyable ways to discover the area around Arashiyama. There are quite a few interesting spots scattered along the foot of the mountain and cycling through the rural area is a great way to discover a larger part.
If you don’t want to cycle tall the way from the centre of Kyoto, you can also rent a bicycle near the train stations in Arashiyama.
1. Togetsukyo Bridge
Togetsukyo Bridge is a 155-meter-long bridge which is built over the Katsura river. It is often referred as an iconic structure in Arashiyama area, and you can find the photos of it in almost all of Japanese travel guide books. Wood is used for some parts of the bridge, including the hand rails, and other fundamental parts such as piers are made of reinforced concrete in order to strengthen the durability. It is only a couple of minutes walk from Hankyu Railway Arashiyama station. Once you cross over the bridge, this is where you can start to explore the main sightseeing street and spots in Arashiyama.
The history of Togetsukyo Bridge dates back around 1,200 years ago, when the first one was built by a Buddhist monk. The name of the bridge is sometimes translate as “Moon Crossing Bridge”, as Emperor Emeritus Kameyama (in Heian era) described the scenery as if the moon was moving across the bridge.
The mountain standing in the back is called “Arashiyama Mountain”, and we recommend you to take some time to look for a perfect location to take photos of the bridge and the mountain altogether, before you rush to cross the bridge! From the bridge, you can take only photos of the mountain, and it looks less impressive compared to the combination of the bridge and the mountain! As the seasons change, the mountain offers different appearance with several plants such as cherry blossoms in spring and colored leaves in fall.
2. Arashiyama Bamboo Groves
This is probably what many tourists are fascinated with and draws the most visitors to Arashiyama. The Arashiyama Bamboo forest is one of the main tourist hotspots and an iconic highlight in Arashiyama. The bamboo grove is a 400-meter-long narrow street surrounded by bamboos. This area was once used as a residential villa for nobilities in Heian era. If you take a close look, you will quickly realise that all the bamboos are well taken care of. They are tall and growing straight towards the sky, so you can feel the sunlight shining through the bamboo, a peaceful atmosphere. It is also relaxing to stop and listen to the sound of all bamboos moving softly in the wind. As it easily gets packed with tourists in daytime, it is better to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
3. Tenryuji Temple
Tenryuji Temple is one of the most famous Zen temples in Kyoto. It was established by Ashikaga Takauji, who opened the Muromachi Shogunate, in 1339 in order to comfort the spirit of Emperor Godaigo. During Muromachi era, it was ranked first among the most major five Zen temples in Kyoto called “Kyoto Go-zan”. As the main buildings were repeatedly destroyed by fire several times in the past, most buildings that we can see today were rebuilt later during Meiji era. It is a part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto. It is also widely known for the scenic garden where you can walk around while enjoying the seasonal plants throughout a year.
8.30am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥500 (garden only), ¥800 (garden and buildings), ¥500 (Dharma hall)
4. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
If you feel a little tired of historical sites, the monkey forest can be a welcome change in scenery for you. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is a commercial park located on Mt. Iwatayama. First, you need to walk up the 120 stairs to reach the designated rest place, where approximately 120 Japanese monkeys (also called “Japanese macaque monkeys”) live in wild. They are well-tamed, but you should keep in mind that they are still wild monkeys. There are in fact several strict rules that you need to follow while you are there, mainly for safety. Remember that it is advisable to keep a considerable distance from them while enjoying watching them roaming around the area. You can also buy some food and feed them by hand from a building located on the top of the mountain. Another big bonus is the view of the whole city of Kyoto, truly breathtaking!
9am – 4pm
Admission fee ¥550
5. Toei Kyoto Studio Park
Toei Kyoto Studio Park (also known as “Uzumasa Eigamura”) is a unique theme park. It is accessible by train from the main Arashiyama district and it takes only 30 minutes. The park features a number of reproductions of Japanese traditional buildings, and it is sometimes used for the purpose of filming movies or dramas relevant to Japanese history. Everything looks real, and it makes you feel as if you were back in the Edo era. Before entering the park, you can dress up in Japanese traditional costumes, which includes samurai and ninja. Just walking around the park and watching people working there in a traditional outfit can be an unforgettable memory! They also provide exciting shows and performances featuring Ninja or famous anime characters.
9am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥2,400 (adult)
6. Katsura Imperial Villa
Katsura Imperial Villa is a villa comprising of several traditional buildings and stunning gardens which were constructed in 17 century. It was originally used as a private villa for the “Hachijo-no-miya” family who were the official members of the Imperial family. The vast gardens are recognized as a masterpiece of Japanese garden, and the whole villa complex has been preserved as it was for centuries without being destroyed. All visitors are required to apply in advance to get a permission to enter the villa.
7. Kimono Forest
Arashiyama Kimono forest near Arashiyama Station is a colourful art installation, made of about 600 backlit pillars adorned with vibrant kimono textiles. It is a wonderful surprise for tourists, especially at night when the pillars are illuminated. You can walk through the Kimono Forest free of charge. It is a perfect place to come after a day of exploring all the interesting sight in Arashiyama and unwind while you soak your tired feet in the free boot bath that you will find on the central platform of the station.
Don’t forget to check out our private tour!
If you need some help to organize your trip to Kyoto, you should definitely check out our private tour including English guide. We’re glad to help you make your trip to Kyoto a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!
- Kyoto Food and Drink Tour @ Arashiyama
Enjoy delicious food and drinks in Arashiyama while exploring the area with our knowledgeable guide!
- Small Group Kyoto Highlight Walking Tour <West>】Also includes other world-famous spots like Kinkakuji Temple and Nijo Castle.
- Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour [Customisable]
Everything is all up to you! We help you customize the itinerary based on your interest and requests.
Where to stay in Arashiyama
- Nagi Kyoto Arashiyama
Walking distance from the main touristic area in Arashiyama, spacious rooms with comfortable atmosphere
- Suiran Kyoto
Only a couple of minutes walk to Tenryu-ji temple which is registered as UNESCO world heritage site, luxurious rooms in quiet location
Located in the central Arashiyama area, recommended to stay in a Japanese style room with the view of the garden
Each touristic spot featured above has respective characteristics, and gives you an opportunity to discover a new aspect of Kyoto which you have probably never expected before. It will surely become one of the highlights of your stay in Kyoto, and also a part of unforgettable memories in your lifetime!
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