Arashiyama (嵐山) is located in Kyoto. While this western part of the city is dismissed in most Western guidebooks in a brief paragraph suggesting "other attractions", the area is rightfully very popular with Japanese tourists and well worth a visit.
Local trains of the Sagano Line (San'in Main Line) depart from Kyoto Station and stop at three stations in the northwest part of the city, including Saga Arashiyama (a good starting point for exploring the Arashiyama area). Note that express services may not stop at the stations you need to disembark at, so it's usually best to rely on local trains.
The Matsuo area is served by the Hankyū Arashiyama Line, which branches off from the Hankyū Kyōto Main Line at Katsura Station.
Although the municipal subway system doesn't serve Arashiyama directly, travellers coming from other parts of the city (especially Central and Higashiyama) can use the Tōzai Line as far west as Nijō Station, where they can transfer to JR trains running on the Sagano Line (San'in Main Line).
Be aware that the ¥500 Bus Pass does not work for any of the Arashiyama or Matsuo-bound buses.
- Togetsukyō Bridge. This picturesque bridge spans the Hozu River, which usually has at least a bit of water in it.
- Tenryū-ji (天龍寺), 68 Saga Tenryuji Susukinobaba-cho (Main entrance near the busy Togetsukyō Bridge intersection), ☎ 075-881-1235, . Open from 8:30am-5:30pm Mar-Oct, to 5pm Nov-Feb. One of the city's UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the main temple of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism in Kyoto; it's also considered one of Kyoto's Five Great Zen Temples. Tenryu-ji was founded in 1334, but the current buildings all date from the last century: pleasant, but unremarkable. However, there is a lovely garden and pond, designed by the Zen master Musō Soseki, that is worth a look - and well worth taking a leisurely stroll around. After your walk, head out the back way and through the splendid bamboo forest to reach the Ōkōchi Sansō villa (see below). Admission is ¥600.
- Ōkōchi Sansō (大河内山荘), (Near the bamboo grove behind Tenryū-ji), ☎ 075-872-2233. 9 AM to 5 PM. A splendid mountain retreat, previously occupied by Japanese silent screen legend Ōkōchi Denjirō. The grounds have something beautiful to offer each season but are probably at their best during autumn, when the trees explode into fiery shades of red and gold. Take a long, leisurely walk through the villa's beautiful gardens and savour the fine views of the city below. There is a small museum on the grounds dedicated to the former owner's life and work. Entrance is ¥ 1000; the price includes a cup of ''matcha'' (green tea) and a small dessert in the villa's teahouse.
- Nonomiya Shrine, ☎ 075-871-1972, . Open from 9 AM to 5 PM. A small shrine located amidst Arashiyama's famous bamboo forest. It was here that women were once trained prior to becoming shrine maidens at Ise Shrine, the holiest Shinto Shrine in Japan. Entrance is free.
A family of Monkeys in Monkey Park
- Iwatayama Monkey Park. A great place for those looking to get away from the abundance of temples and shrines in the city, feeding the macaque monkeys atop the mountain is worth the entrance fee (and the demanding climb!). Don't bring food up with you, though - peanuts are on sale inside the shack on top of the mountains, and the monkeys are well aware of it. There's a pond next to the shack, and the monkeys seem particularly fond of the keeper's motorcycle, which is usually parked there. There's a ¥600 admission fee to enter the park; peanuts cost extra, but you know the monkeys appreciate it.
- 19th Century Hall, (Just outside Saga Arashiyama station). A museum covering the unlikely combination of steam locomotives and pianos. Probably best to look at it from the outside, and listen to the amusing tinny music it blasts out.
Sharing a cup at Otagi Nenbutsu-ji
- Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple (愛宕念仏寺), 2-5 Fukatani-cho (By bus, take #72 from Kyoto station to Otagidera-Mae, or within Arashiyama, catch #62 or #72.), ☎ 075-865-1231, . Open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Despite being omitted from virtually all guidebooks, it's one of the true unknown gems of Kyoto. It was founded in the eighth century, and went through an unlucky patch for a millennium or so; by turns it was destroyed by flood, fire and typhoon, and had to move location a few times. Today, it sits a short distance from the end of Saga Toriimoto, one of Kyoto's three historic preservation districts. Two fierce statues guard the entrance. Once you're through the gate, though, you'll find over 1200 small (knee-to-waist high) statues, each with its own unique character - you'll see a cheerful boxer near the entrance, but you could spend hours checking out the rest, and you'll do it in relative seclusion, since this is well away from the tourist trail. The statues were carved in 1981 by amateurs under the direction of master sculptor Kocho Nishimura. Moss and forest have begun to reclaim the area, and if you've ever wondered what Angkor Wat would look like crossed with Japanese kawaii, this is your chance. Admission is ¥300.
- Daikakuji Temple, 4 Saga-Osawa-cho, . While it is a temple today, originally, it was the villa of Emperor Saga. It is well-known by those who practice Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, as it is the birthplace of Saga Goryu, a school of Ikebana. Often, there are examples of Saga Goryu near the entrance to the temple. The temple itself is reasonably large, with some artwork inside. The view of the Osawanoike Pond is quite relaxing.
- Adashino Nenbutsu-ji, ☎ 075-861-2221, . Open 9 AM to 4:30 PM. The famous Priest Kukai established this temple for the purpose of saying prayers for Arashiyama's dead. The temple grounds are filled with approximately 8000 Buddhist statues, each representing an unknown or forgotten person. Although it is famous for its statues, just like Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, Adashino Nenbutsu-ji is a spiritual place and a graveyard, so it has greater historical and spiritual significance, as well as impressive and beautiful. If you take a walk through the small bamboo-lined path to the upper area, you'll find actual grave sites instead of the statues in the lower area. There is also an area similar to the purification spots found at most temples however, at this one, you are supposed to pour water on each of the statues as you walk around it. This is a form of reverence and worship, and the Japanese who enter (particularly those who come to the upper area) come to pray, so while it may be fun, try also to be respectful.
- Gioji Temple, ☎ 075-861-3574, . Open from 9 AM to 5 PM. Mentioned in the Tales of Heike, this is the site where sisters Gio and Ginyo come to devote their lives to Buddhism. Although the temple itself is rather small, the visit is made worthwhile by its vivid bright green moss garden. Entrance fee: ¥300.
- Takiguchi-dera Temple, (Located on the same road as Gioji, at the end). A quiet, peaceful temple of less interest than nearby Gioji Temple.
- Jojakkoji Temple, ☎ 075-861-0435, . Open 9 AM to 5 PM. This temple is quite beautiful in the autumn when the leaves are changing, and the view of the city from just above the pagoda is a truly spectacular. Entrance is ¥400.
- Nison-in Temple. A large temple complex that houses two ancient sculptures of Buddha; one of Shakamuni Buddha and the other of Amida Buddha. It also houses the graves of some famous Japanese people. Unless you have interest in visiting one of the graves, the complex seems expensive compared to other temples of the same price with much more interesting sites and history. Admission is ¥500.
- Seiryo-ji (sagashaka-do). This is the former home of Toru Minamoto who is believed to be the man that the famous Tale of Genji's protagonist Genji was inspired by.
- Senko-ji (Daihikaku). This temple was built as a memorial temple for those who died while working on dams and other projects under Suminokura Ryoi. There are a variety of monuments and statues on the temple grounds, and a haiku from the famous poet Matsuo Bassho was written about the cherry blossoms on the temple grounds. The walk along the Hozu River leading to the temple is arguably more enjoyable than the temple itself, as the water often displays quite vivid blues and greens.
Located just south of Arashiyama, the Matsuo area is rarely mentioned in most guidebooks however, it does have a few interesting sites, particularly Kokedera, a World Heritage Site and Matsuo Taisha which the area is named after.
- Matsuo Taisha, ☎ 075-871-5016, . Shrine open from 5 AM to 6 PM. Treasure house open from 9 AM to 4 PM. A shrine that's rarely visited by foreigners, Matsuo Taisha is a popular place for sake brewers to pray. The shrine existed prior to the establishment of Kyoto as Japan's capital and later received offerings from the Heian court. The shrine is famous for its water, said to be pure, as well as its interesting gardens and landscape. Shrine is free, ¥500 to see shrine treasures and garden area.
- Katsura Imperial Villa, (About 15-20 minutes on foot from Katsura Station on the Hankyū Kyōto Main Line, 5-8 minutes on foot from Katsura Rikyū-mae bus stop), . A real cultural treasure, renowned for its magnificent gardens and fine classical architecture. You can obtain permission to join a tour of the property either through the Imperial Household Agency's official website (which also contains a detailed list of instructions ) or by applying in person at the agency's Kyoto office (near the Imperial Palace). Be sure to apply well in advance of your visit: slots are extremely limited and the much sought-after online permits are rationed out through a lottery selection process.
- Umenomiya Shrine, . This shrine is oddly dedicated to gods of both easy delivery and sake, because it is believed that the goddess Saketokekono was so delighted at the birth of her son that she made and drank sake. In addition, the stone to the right (upon entering) is believed to ensure pregnancy to any woman who steps over it, as a former Empress originally who was originally thought to be barren got pregnant after stepping over this stone. Along with a plethora of folk beliefs, the shrine is also a popular place to view flowers in the summertime. The shrine grounds are free, but to enter the shrine costs ¥500.
- Suzumushi-dera, . "Suzumushi-dera" means "cricket temple", and as you might guess, there is a large case of crickets all along the wall. Ever since the temple was featured on the NHK, Japan's national television station, it has received quite large crowds of people waiting to enter, but don't let the crowds scare you away. The purpose is to enjoy the crickets chirping, so upon entering, visitors are treated to tea, a snack, and a speech by one of the temple's priests (in Japanese, of course) lasting roughly 20 minutes. He talks about the crickets and makes a shameless plug for the charms sold at the temple and then the next group is allowed in. The temple seats a large amount of people, so even those waiting on the steps leading to the temple should be able to get in for the next session. In order to keep the crickets chirping, they have to keep the temple warm, making it a great place to visit for winter travellers.
- Kokedera, 56 Jingatani-cho, Matsuo, ☎ 075-391-3631. The temple will tell you when your reservation is scheduled for in their response letter if you have been accepted. Kokedera, also known as Saimyo-ji, is one of Kyoto's World Heritage Sites famous for is beautiful moss garden. In the past, visitors could come and go freely, like most temples however, due to tourists stepping on and killing the moss, the temple had to limit the number of visitors and now requires a reservation in order to visit. The only accepted method is by mail. You need to send a letter giving them your name, the number of people in your party, and the date(s) you prefer to visit along with a self-addressed stamped envelope for them to send their response back to you. Here is the temple's address: Saiho-ji Temple 56 Jingatani-cho, Matsuo Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto, 615-8286, Japan
If accepted, you will pay on arrival. While the price is quite steep, keep in mind that along with a tour of the garden, you will also listen to a monk recite sutras and even get to copy the sutras yourself. For those lucky enough to be accepted for a visit, it is often one of their best memories. Admission is ¥3000 (the most expensive temple in Kyoto).
- Hozu River Cruise, (For a 16km trip down the river take the JR Sagano Line from JR Kyoto station to JR Kameoka Station (approx. 20 minutes by rapid express) and turn left when you exit the station. It is a 10 minute walk to the boarding site along a rather busy road.). Departures run from mid March to the end of November roughly on the hour starting at 9 AM. Last boat leaves at 3:30pm. During the winter boats with heated seats leave at 10am,11:30am, 1pm and 2:30pm.. To experience Arashiyama to the fullest, the river cruise is your best bet! A variety of boats, small or larg, both rowed and motored, are waiting on either side of the river. Be sure to confirm how far and for how long the trip goes, though. Some are as long as two hours, and others will do a quick turnaround in less then twenty minutes. Be prepared to get splashed and take appropriate precautions for electronic equipment. The drop off point sets you down just outside the entrance to Iwatayama Monkey Park, a great location to begin your stroll around the sights of Arashiyama. It costs ¥ 3,900 for adults, ¥ 2,500 for children.
- Ride in a Rickshaw. For those looking to experience Kyoto from a different perspective, travelling in a rickshaw allows you to do just that. You can arrange where they will take you (and check the fees, of course) and then they will take your picture inside the rickshaw. Depending on where you are, you may even be able to get the Togetsukyo Bridge in the background. While you travel, the rickshaw puller will tell you about the area and the local sites, so you can learn a lot, if you understand Japanese. You can find the rickshaws around Togetsukyo Bridge. Prices range from about ¥5000-7000, depending on where you go.
- Cafe Rue Ribera is a new, very beautifully arranged and welcoming petit restaurant and bar that has just been open for a year. Opened by a very nice, welcoming woman who speaks very good English (having spent some time in England). Located just near Enmachi Station on the Sagano Line. Tel/Fax: +81 075-812-2351. Open 11:30am til 1:30am. Lunchtime 11:30am til 2:30pm. Closed Tuesdays.
- Aka Manma, 26 Setogawa-cho, Saga Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8376 (North of Togetsukyō Bridge, near the JR line), ☎ 075-881-9073 (fax: 075-861-0285), . 10:00-23:00, lunch 11:30-15:00, dinner 17:00-21:00. Café and restaurant; serves a mix of French, Italian, and Japanese dishes. English menu and vegetarian options available.
Most travelers will stay in Central or Northern Kyoto instead, and visit Arashiyama only for the day.
- Rokuō-in (鹿王院), 24 Kitahori-cho, Saga, Ukyo-ku (Near Arashimaya, six minutes by foot from Saga-Arashiyama Station on the JR Sagano Line), ☎ +81 (0)75-861-1645. Only for female visitors. 10 rooms with a maximum capacity of 30; during peak season, guests traveling alone may be asked to share a room with another single guest; towels not provided; one bath. Crowded during autumn foliage season. Curfew at 7:30pm. Closed during New Year's holidays. ¥4,500 per person with breakfast.
- Bola Bola Guest House, 25-17 Horigauchi-cho Uzumasa, Ukyo-ku (near JR Uzumasa train station on the western part of Kyoto, 15 min. train ride from Kyoto station), ☎ +81 (0)75-861-5663, . checkin: 3 PM - midnight; checkout: 11 AM. A friendly and well kept guest house. The owner speaks English and is very willing to help foreign guests. ¥2500 dorm, ¥3500 private room (¥2500 each for 2 or more people).
- Utano Youth Hostel, 9 Nakayama-cho, Uzumasa, ☎ 075-462-2288, . checkin: 3:00 to 11:30 PM; checkout: 10:00 AM. A convenient and affordable hostel in Arashiyama. They offer bike rentals for ¥600/day (or ¥200/hour), allowing you to easily see most of Arashiyama or explore much of Northeastern Kyoto in a day. They also have their own tennis court and barbeque grill available for use by guests. Reservations can be made online. Prices start at ¥3300 (¥2800 for ages 18 and under).
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