Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is the name given to a whole area in the western part of Kyoto where you can spend at least half a day. The bamboo grove is open to visitors 24 hours and free. You can get there in about 30 minutes by taking the Hankyu Train from the Kawaramachi Station which is located in the middle of Kyoto City. There are so many things to do in Arashiyama from the romantic train ride to the monkey park, the picturesque forest to historic temples.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Top 10 Things to Do Nearby
Since the early Heian period, Arashiyama has maintained its image of being a popular destination for locals and travelers. When visiting Arashiyama you will see and experience many different sights and sounds. The streets are crowded with tourists walking about, and as you explore Arashiyama you will find yourself by the Katsura River and the Togetsukyo Bridge. When you turn to look down the river, you can see its natural beauty and that of the mountains beyond. You will also notice many boats travelling the river with people enjoying the ride, as well as people walking on trails that course through the mountain so they can see the sights from above. This is just a small taste of the beauty and historic feel you can get as you enter and explore Arashiyama.
Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama
Arashiyama is famous for its natural beauty, but the highlight of this wondrous part of Kyoto is the bamboo grove situated near the heart of Arashiyama. Bamboo has been a significant part of Japanese society and culture, representing resilience and passion as it is the fastest growing plant in Japan. It is said that some bamboo species can grow 35 inches in one day. During the Heian Period many aristocrats used to travel and visit places like this to get out and see what nature has to offer. Soon after, many Japanese would travel to Arashiyama to enjoy the bamboo forests. This is a must visit location when you visit Arashiyama, you won’t want to miss out. Source: bamboo forest
Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama
Right at the center of Arashiyama is the Togetsukyo Bridge. This 155 meter long bridge was first built during the Heian period, but like many old Japanese buildings it has been rebuilt several times since it was first constructed. It was last fully restored during 1934. From the bridge you can see the coursing river and many of the other adventures that await you. You will naturally find yourself crossing this bridge multiple times as you explore these sights and wonders. Source & more info
Tenryu-ji Temple in Arashiyama
This extensive temple was constructed back in 1339 by Shogun Ashikaga Takauji as a way to honor the life of Emperor Go-Daigo, who passed away during the same year of its construction. It has seen many hardships and has been ravaged by 6 fires throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. This was followed by other fires in 1815, and a particular devastating fire in 1864 during the early stages of the Bosin war. It has most recently been restored during 1934, and since then you can now view this monumental piece of history. From the living quarters to the Zendo you can marvel at the beauty of this Temple. Later, as you walk through the garden you can let go and enjoy the natural surroundings of this temple. After you finish relaxing and enjoying a sense of peace within these walls, you can exit through the north gate of the temple which will put you right at the heart of Arashiyama, the Bamboo Grove. Source & more info
Iwatayama Monkey Park
On the other side of the river you will notice a path going upwards. if you take this path and walk up the hill for about 30 minutes, you will reach the Iwatayama Monkey Park . This is a national conservatory of Japanese macaques frequnted by locals and international travelres. There are so many cute monkeys that are conserved in their natural habitat. You can feed them and it is a good family activity. You are not allowed to touch monkeys and they may sometimes get aggressive. The entrance fee tot he monkey park is 550 JPY. Source & more info
Okochi Sanso Villa & Garden
This is by far my most favorite place in Arashiyama. It is also quieter than other parts as many visitors skip it because of the 1000 JPY entrance which in my opinion is totally worth it. The entrance fee also includes a simple pack of sweets and tea. Okochi Sanso is a beautiful villa that was built and taken care of by the famous actor Denjiro Okochi. This villa has some of the most stunning views in Arashiyama and covers up around 20,000 square meters. The areas surrounding the villa are mostly taken up by the Gardens that Denjiro Okochi painstakingly created over 30 years, from the age of 34 until his death. The garden has many highlights such as the Tekisuian (Japanese tea house), Jibutsudo (buddist shrine), and the Denjiro Okochi Archive. Okochi Sanso is a wondrous sight that you won’t want to miss, so you too can be captivated by the wonderful view, just as Denjiro Okochi was. The place opens at 9:00 AM and closes at 5:00 PM. Source & more info
Kudari Boat Ride
Kudari are river boat rides that have played an integral role in the life of the Japanese people in this region. These boats were not only for transportation of people but, they were also used to transport wood all across Japan. A lot of this wood was used to build many of the temples and buildings in the area around Arashiyama and beyond. The Kudari lost much of its purpose with the completion of the JR Sanin line, but the rides on the river remained so popular that they are still available to visitors to this day. You can enjoy the beauty and natural sites of the foothills in the area from the center of the river as well as purchase a small snack to eat as you calmly ride up and down the river. Your access to them is near Togetsukyo bridge as you make it to the side opposite Arashiyama Station. Source & more info
Sagano Romantic Train Ride
In Arashiyama, don’t forget to take the romantic Sagano train ride which is open-air train during the summer months. This for sure a unique sightseeing activity though may not be ideal in the Winter time. Interestingly, this activity is very common among Asian visitors while the majority of Western visitors skip it. For 25 minutes, the ride will show the city’s beauty in any season, such as the changing leaves in autumn and spring’s cherry blossoms. The train ride starts at Saga torokko station and ends at Kameoka torokko station, following the picture-perfect Hozukyo Ravine along the way. The train runs daily, except Wednesdays, from 09:00 AM to 04:00 PM. Ticket price is 620 JPY for adults. Location and reviews of Sagano Romantic Train . Location: 11-1 Sagatenryuji Kurumamichicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8373, Japan. Source & more info
Daikaku-ji is a beautiful temple that is just a short 15 minute walk away from Saga Arashiyama station. This temple was built during the early stages of the Heian period by Emperor Saga around 1200 years ago. It was originally constructed to be his villa, but it was soon converted into a temple after his death. Daikaku-ji today also has one of the oldest man made ponds in Japan called the Osawa pond. This pond is home to hundreds of lily pads and you can take a boat ride out onto it during Otsukimi, the moon viewing festival, in Autumn. Along with the pond the temple has a beautiful pagoda and arch bridge for you to see and admire while visiting the temple grounds. Source & more info
The Kimono Forest was added during the renovation of the Randen tram station of the Keifuku Arashiyama line in 2013. It consists of 600 2-meter tall pillars. Wrapped around each pillar is kimono fabric dyed in the Kyo-yuzen style from the Edo period. Just looking at these pillars and the beautiful designs of their fabric lets you think about how beautiful the kimonos must have been. This may not have the same history or natural significance as some of the other sights in Arashiyama, but it is a beautiful sight and nice walk. It is especially recommended to end your day in Arashiyama here. As the days end and as it gets darker these pillars light up brilliantly allowing you to take some enchanting photos. Source & more info
Gio-ji Temple is all that remains of the once great Ojo-in temple. Gio-ji is currently a small branch temple of Daikaku-ji. But that is not the only thing interesting about this temple. This temple is quite unique in the fact that it is a buddhist nunnery, which is not all too common. While it isn’t the largest or most accessible temple in Arashiyama, the charming moss garden and trees definitely make it worth the visit. It is an especially beautiful location to visit during seasonal changes. If you are around during spring or autumn you definitely don’t want to miss out. Source & more info
Katsura Imperial Villa
Katsura Imperial villa is one of the most historically important landmarks in Kyoto. It was once used by members of the aristocracy as a place to relax during the Edo period. It has a beautiful garden laid out across interconnected islands. As you go from one island to the next you can feel a different experience each time. Although just so you know to enter the villa you are required to go through a group organized tour by the Imperial Household Agency. The tours are in Japanese but english audio guides are available on the tours. These tours are well worth it so you too can experience the relaxation that the aristocrats of old must’ve felt. Source & more info
Arashiyama Hiking Trails
If you are more adventurous or love nature there are numerous hiking trails around Arashiyama. These trails take you through the small range of mountains in the area along the Katsuya river. From the early parts of the trail, you can go off through various fields and parks and you can enjoy the view of the sounding parts of Arashiyama from above. You can easily spend hours upon hours enjoying the natural sights that these trails have to offer. These hikes although are best experienced during the morning, if you venture out too late it can get quite dark along these trails. Also, going out during the morning allows you to relax in one of the many cafes within the Arashiyama area during the lovely sunny afternoons. Source:Personal experience
Did you know?
Arashiyama is a historically significant site of nature and culture. This location has been an important site since the beginning of the Heian period which took place over 1200 years ago. The Heian period was a great period of enlightenment in Japan. Many of the nobles during this time would enjoy their lives by seeking out nature to experience all of the wonders it has to offer. Arashiyama would become a popular destination for many of these nobles since it was quite close to the capital and maintained a peaceful and exquisite environment.
Everyone knows the Arashiyama Sagano bamboo forest but not many know about the sandal ride. With an amazing view in the Spring and fall you will have an amazing Kyoto experience right next to the Sagano bridge. Additionally, the zen gardens in Okochi Sanso and Tenryuji temples in Arashiyama are the most tranquil Japanese gardens.
Tip: Must go very early or late in the afternoon otherwise the place gets packed. This place is outside the downtown area and consists of many temples and shrines, so spare a half day. There are many cafes and restaurants so don’t worry about the food. The bamboo grove you see in the pictures is only a small part but still nice area to visit.
Tip: After a 30-minute hike you will reach the Iwatayama Monkey Park where many cute monkeys are conserved in their natural habitat. You can feed tham and it is good family activity. If you want to spend the whole day in Arashiyama then you may also check the Otagi Nenbutsuji temple with thousands of Buddha statues. Also for honeymooners there is this famous romantic train ride.
In the picture above: The statues at the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple in Arashiyama
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