Arashiyama is located in the western outskirts of Kyoto. It is a touristy district and a popular area to be there during the cherry blossom and fall foliage season. It is one of my favourite places in Japan. In fact, I have been there twice in a year but different season – Winter ふゆ and autumn あき. If you asked me, which season I prefer most, I would say autumn. Autumn is all about chasing autumn leaves, rushing from one place to another place and catch them before the leaves kissing good bye to the mother – the trees. Comparing to winter, autumn has more colours – green, yellow, brown, red; painting your photos in more hues and shades. It is best to visit in mid-November to early December if you were planning for a trip in Kansai area.
Mesmerize the beauty of Togetsukyo Bridge (渡月橋)
Also known as “Moon Crossing Bridge”, is Arashiyama’s most iconic landmark. It was originally built during the Heian Period (794-1185) and reconstructed in the 1930s. Every season has its beautiful sight. It was rather empty during the winter time but autumn like this one was filled with green and red and yellow colours. We spent some times walking across the bridge and checking out the splendid view from the bridge.
Togetsukyo Bridge in autumn
Togetsukyo bridge in winter
1. Sip up a cup of smooth % Arabica Coffee
Located just a short distance away from Togetsukyo Bridge. % Arabica is now expanded to various part of the world such as Hong Kong, Dubai, Kuwait and etc. The atmosphere is bright and stylish, and the roasting is done in-house at the back of the shop. Not to mention, that smooth, creamy and fragrant cuppa to go along with the scenic view in front of the shop. I do believe the milk in Japan does an amazing trick to the coffee.
2. Walk through the greenish bamboo groove
A very scenic pathway for a walk or bicycle ride and fascinate over the macho and strong bamboo here. If you wish to learn more about here, you can hire the rickshaw guided service offered by the macho man.
3. Discover the legends in Nonomiya Shrine (野宮神社)
Within this bamboo forest is this small shrine which was formerly known as a temporary sanctuary for princesses. A popular shrine amongst women where a visit to this temple will help the single ladies in matchmaking process, and safe delivery for mother-to-be.
4. Savour the best vegetarian meal – tofu ryori
Established since 1984, Saga Tofu Ine is specialising in tofu cuisine. Really can’t believe a simple ingredient, tofu can make up such an amazing cuisine; from the starter to desserts, all of them are made of Tofu, the main element. We had their Pail Tofu Skin Dish (¥1,620), Kyoto-style Tofu Skin Starchy Dish (¥1,620), Soy Milk Obanzai Dish (¥ 1,980) and Saga Dish (¥ 1,980) that come with a variety of course such as shimmered dish, roasted dish, pail dish, bowl dish, rice and sweets. The sweets are the homemade Kuro-Hon-Warabi, a specialty of Arashiyama made by traditional method of kneading domestically-produced bracken-root starch in heated pot. Every course of them was very good. I loved my order of Soy Milk Obanzai. The star of this set was the banzai pot consisted of homemade tofu, homemade tofu skin, and Kyoto vegetables, served with the hot piping soy milk and miso soup. A true tummy warmer after the long walk early in the morning.
5. Zen-ing in Tenryuji Temple (天龍寺)
One of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites; also ranked as the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto, the largest and most impressive temple in Arashiyama.
Tenryuji was built in 1339 in memory of Emperor Godaigo. It is pretty huge with a few halls, pavillions and garden where you may take a stroll and mesmerize the Zen of this world heritage.
6. Chasing the autumn leaves in Jojakko-Ji Temple (常寂光寺)
The Nichiren Buddhism Temple established in 1596 by priest Nisshin. It is known as a great spot of Koyo (autumn leaves) and considered as one of the best in Kyoto. There is a very steep stairway leading you from Nio-mon to the main hall. There are maple trees and moss at the side of the paths and stairs that lead you to the temple grounds. This place is my best spot for autumn foliage throughout the whole trip.
7. Ride on the Sagano Romantic Train (嵯峨野観光鉄道)
And enjoy the scenic view of Hozugawa Ravine that legs couldn’t reach. The one way journey takes about 25 mins. The whole journey was covered with orange, red, yellow and slight green. It was an amazing journey and definitely worth paying for. TIPS: purchase your ticket once you reach the airport at the Kansai Airport Information Centre or the JR Ticket Office. The tickets are sold out very fast during the peak season (spring and autumn). Do note that the train is not functioning during winter (January to February).
The Sagano Train has 5 coaches. There are 4 coaches covered with windows while the 5th coach is not. The 5th coach known as The Legendary Coach and it is always the most popular one. If you love to be seated at the open-air area for perfect breeze experience and photo taking (photo perfect because no blocking from the windows), you can choose to ride on Car No. 5. Bear in mind, sitting in coach no.5 is not a joke during autumn time as it can be super cold as the train moves. No advance ticket can be made and you may only purchase the ticket for coach no.5 on the departure day itself.
We hopped on the train at the main station – Saga Torokko Station (near JR Saga- Arashiyama Station) and get off at Kameoka Torokko Station. Then we walked about 10 mins to JR Umahori Station and took the JR back to Kyoto.
In another way, you can actually take the train from Kameoka Torokko Station (10 mins walk from JR Umahori) to Saga Torokko Station or Arashiyama Torokko Station (which is towards Arashiyama).
8. Stroll along the Saga-Arashiyama Area Shopping Street
There is so much to see and try along this street. There are a lot of souvenirs shops selling local delicacies and crafts made of bamboo. You may shop your souvenirs here.
Of course, there are a lot other attractions in Arashiyama such as Daikakuji Temple, Nisonin Temple and etc. When time is limited, choose wisely on where to visit. The above are my recommendation for the first timers in Arashiyama. My kind advice: do not slotting in all the places of attraction and just “touch-and-go”; you will be able to explore more and in depths by taking things slow over here.
A girl who has wanderlust and love travel very much. She deeply falls in love with Japan ever since she stepped onto the "land of rising sun" in year 2002. She always wishes to explore more about Japan; the beauty of its art and culture, people and spirit, food and language. She finds that every prefecture in Japan is very unique and different from one another and always has a dream to visit all 47 prefectures in Japan.