Arashiyama is an outlying western district of Kyoto which is one of our favourite places in Japan. It is one of those places that are filled with various sightseeing attractions from wildlife such as viewing wild monkeys in the mountainside surrounding the area, to cormorant fishing on traditional boats. The various temples, the bamboo forests and the charming lane way of traditional buildings far from the touristy area make for a great day of exploring this area. Follow our itinerary as we show you how to enjoy this traditional district.
9:00 Iwatayama Park
From Hankyu Arashiyama train station, the walk to the closest attraction Iwatayama Park, otherwise known as Monkey mountain follows the Hozu River where you see Arashiyama’s most famous landmark the Togetsukyo bridge. Don’t cross the bridge but continue walking along the river until you see the stairs veering up the mountains.
After thirty minutes you will reach the top of the mountain where a ranger will greet you into a hut where you can buy food to feed the monkeys. The best part though is wandering outside and watching the tribe of 170 monkeys in their natural habitat, climbing trees, playing or grooming other monkeys.
We have spent the whole day here as our favourite animals are monkeys but including the hiking time I guess most people would spend maybe two hours in the park.
9am-5pm 15 Mar-Oct, to 4pm Nov-14 Mar
11:00 The Main Street of Arashiyama
The Main Street ofArashiyama is your typical touristy street in Japan filled with souvenir shops selling the same goods as well as typical touristy restaurants. Unless you like this type of atmosphere then there is really no need to stay long here unless you need to kill a bit of time waiting for a restaurant or a train.
You are instantly in Arashiyama’s Main Street once you cross Togetsukyo bridge.
11:30 Shorian Restaurant
Shorian Restaurant is located in the mountainside opposite Iwatayama park. The traditional Japanese tatami mat restaurant built overlooking the Hozu River specializes in tofu which is famous in this area.
Lunch is served at three different times during the day 11:30, 13:30 and 15:30. There are two courses to choose from either 3800 yen with no beef but we wanted to try the Ohmi beef which is good enough reason to pay the more expensive menu for 5800 yen. This was also our 14th year wedding anniversary so it was a great place to celebrate a special occasion. You will eat tofu in a variety of styles which you have never eaten before.
Shorian only sits 14 guests at a time so reservations are important if you want to eat at the restaurant. There is an English menu and some staff speak English.
Tofu with a glass of sake
Assortment of appertisers
The slices of beef were so tender
Tofu ice cream
13:30 Tenryuji temple
Tenryuji temple will be the first temple that you come upon when you are in Arashiyama. It is a Unesco World Heritagesite. The temple originated in the 14th century. It became the biggest zen monastery in Japan with 120 sub temples. The highlight of its garden is the exquisite pond.
admission ¥600 gardens only ¥500
8.30am-5.30pm, to 5pm 21 Oct-20 Mar
14:15 Bamboo forest
The bamboo forest will be the highlight of your time in Arashiyama. The 200 meter forest is a serene picturesque forest and is a photographers delight as they get to play with the different light that penetrates the forest. The forestis small and twenty minutes would be sufficient time to spend here. It is hard to get a photo of the forest without the tourists.
15:00Traditional lane of historical buildings
Quite a walk away from the tourists you will come to a traditional lane selling souvenirs as well as tea houses seving the best tea in the area. This is a great place for photography and a place to also soak in the atmosphere of what Japan was like 100’s of years ago.It really feels like a time warp mainly because foreigners are everywhere in Kyoto but here you will have the place to yourself.
15:20 Otagi Nebutsuji temple
This is the coolest temple I have been to in Japan and the Rakan sculptured stone figures were only discovered about 40 years ago as the grounds of the temple were overgrown. It was only due to restoration that the 1200 sculptures were discovered. The temple is small and if you are not a photographer you probably won’t need to spend much time in these grounds. We just loved this temple though.
open 8:00am to 17:00 pm
16:00 Okochi Sanso
This was the Summer home to Denjiro Okochi a famous silent actor who made movies in the studios of Kyoto. His house has an elaborate spiral garden that leads to fabulous views over the city.
For us the highlight of the gardens are it moss gardens
The villa also has a tea house on its grounds which you can drink a green tea which is included in the price. It is a little expensive for 1000¥ entrance.
open 9:00am to 17:00pm
Okochi Sanso Summer Villa
17:30 catch the train back to Osaka or central Kyoto
Before you even know it, it’s evening and time to get back to the area in which you are staying. There are other places to see in Arashiyama so it might be a great option to stay in a traditional ryokan in this area.
The best time of year to visit Arashiyama
Arashiyama is at its best in either Spring or Autumn. This however is when it has the most tourists.
During Summer there are boat tours on the Hozu River where you can witness cormorant fishing.
There is also a scenic train trip which follows the river. This is extremely popular in Autumn and Spring during the cherry blossom season and Autumn foliage. The train is usually packed and forced to stand up squashed against another person.
Have you been to Arashiyama? Tell us what you thought of it in the comment box below.