I chose to write about Arashiyama today, not just because I visited it yesterday but because it’s an overcrowded place to visit. Like a lot of Kyoto Arashiyama has a lot of tourists… it’s like going round Disneyland, where people randomly stop to take photos of each other and have to wait a long time before no one else is in the photo.
The bamboo forest itself is very beautiful, the trail is short if you are on a tight schedule then you may just want to pop into the trail take a few photos and walk straight back out of it again. However if you have the time maybe you would like to explore other parts of Arashiyama.
If you wish to see the bamboo forest for yourself and wish not many people to be in your photo then you could pay for rickshaw ride which has it’s own route into the forest. They do tours of the forest itself and the surrounding areas. Prices and the length of time varies. As I have never done it I can’t say for certain. But as I was writing this I discovered you can pre book online or you could ask them when you see them around the area.
Before you turn your nose up at Arashiyama for the crowds it is worth knowing that there are other places still in the area which if you have the time or are willing to explore than you won’t be disappointed.
The path breaks off into 2 different routes (if you have come from the main road) if you head straight at the fork in the road you will go to “Temple Zone”. If you turn right you will reach the really famous Japanese actor’s garden (Okochi Sanso) which I’ve heard is beautiful all year round. It’s price to go in is relatively high but apparently it includes matcha and a japanese sweet.
Turning right from here will lead you to Arashiyama park a place to relax play in the open field or take photos of the trees. If you head up hill you will reach a spectacular view of the valley below.
Follow the path down the hill and walk along the river edge. There you will be able to rent rowing boats or have a cruise along the river. The rowing boats are fun to do and a place to get away from the crowds of people. Although its restricted to 3 adults per boat for 1400 yen for an hour.
The rowing boats don’t allow you to ride through the valley but there is a boat ride that does. You must catch the JR train to Kameoka station, and either walk for 15 minutes or catch the bus. The other more scenic route is to go via the Sagano scenic railway. For more information please click here.
Cross the bridge and you will find the Arashiyama Monkey park. It has high reviews but I haven’t been. It costs 550 yen to go in, you climb a hill see some monkeys and have good view of the scenery around.
Since I started writing this despite coming here 3 times for about 2 whole days it would seem as though I haven’t done much… but that’s because there’s a lot to do lots of photos to take.
The Temple Zone
As I mentioned earlier taking the other route in the bamboo forest leads to the Temple Zone, (or turning right at the end of the other route). I call it the temple zone because that’s where most of the temples are. Before you reach the end of the forest walk you will see a little garden where you can follow the twists and turns through the bamboo. The bamboo isn’t as thick there and its one of the places the rickshaws go but if you really wanted photos of bamboo this is the place you should go.
Anyway this area is primarily residential but has a few local craft shops (bamboo, pottery) and cafes on the way to the temples.
So you reach the first temple Jojakkoji. There are a lot of photo opportunities in this temple and it is worth the 500 yen price to get in. The temple offers indepth information in English about the different parts and the history of the temple. For more information visit their website.
Keep heading away from the forest, and you should come across Nison-in Temple, in comparison to Jojakkoji there is not so much information available in English but it’s just as interesting and enjoyable to see.
Continue past Nison-in temple you will come across Saga Toriimoto, which is a street of traditional buildings. It is far from the hustle and bustle of the bamboo trail. Some buildings are private so keep the peace and be mindful. Good place for buying souvenirs. Adashino nenbutsuji is on the street and up a small hill. It’s about 500 yen to get in, the temple is unique and picturistic. Follow the path round the temple and head up through the bamboo grove.
I haven’t ventured further past this point but if you do there is another temple called Otagi Nenbutsuji temple which is 300 yen to visit and is recommended to see.
Another recommended place to see is the Daikaku-ji Temple (not at all in the “Temple Zone”). I was too late to visit it. It’s a long walk from the forest about 15 minutes… (that doesn’t sound too long ) It has beautiful gardens and a good looking pond.
Anyway you can choose what to do in this lovely area of Kyoto. To do everything it would probably take you over a day but for a quick snap it shouldn’t take more than an hour.