Autumn has just arrived, and you may think that going sightseeing in Japan at this moment will be all about admiring the beautiful landscape, right? But it is not. Besides the gorgeous coloured leaves, you can also enjoy the gentle weather of the season and do interesting (outdoor) activities. West of Kyoto there is one of the most well-known mountains amongst tourists, Mount Arashi (Arashiyama). The mountain’s reputation of being breathtaking has been around since ancient periods.
Ever since those times emperors and their families have gone there, especially during spring and autumn. I went there several times in different seasons, but my favourite time to go is hands down during autumn. The many shades of red, brown, yellow compose an amazing and captivating scenery. Besides the beautiful view, you can also do fun activities in the Arashiyama area.
All places and activities listed below are within the vicinity of each other, so if you plan your day well you can experience many things in one day!
The Saga Scenic Railway runs seven kilometers from Arashiyama to nearby Kameoka, mostly alongside the pretty Hozu River. It takes 25 minutes and is known as a very romantic tour. It is also a good option for families with children. As this is a safe activity, it is easy for parents and their children to enjoy the scenery without having to hurry or barely being able to move in the crowded streets.
If you want to take this train, go to Kyoto Station and take the JR line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. From there, transfer trains heading to the Torokko Saga Station of the Sagano Scenic Railway.
I tried this twice. At first it was challenging to control the direction the boat goes in, but I was lot of fun. The boat goes down the Hozu River and it takes about two hours, passing by mountainsides and stopping near the Togetsukyo bridge.
Click here for more information and to make a reservation.
This is a traditional method to catch fish in Japan. From July to September tourists can experience this activity for one hour. You go out onto the river on a boat in the evening, carrying a torchlight to be able to see. Fresh water trouts can be caught using cormorant birds. If you travel with a larger group (15 people or more) you will be able to rent a private boat, and you can even have dinner on the boat. With a smaller group there is no dinner, but the boat ride is a cool and refreshing enjoyable one anyway during summer and early autumn.
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This temple was established in 1339 by the shogun at the time using the profits of two trading trips to China. It is considered one of Kyoto’s five major Zen temples. Besides the main hall, living quarters and a vegetarian restaurant, you can also visit its beautiful pond garden. The temple charges 500 yen for general entry, and 300 yen extra if you want to visit the gardens as well. It is open from 8:30 to 17:30. (Closes at 17:00 from October 21 to March 20.)
This monkey park is a 10 minute hike from the south of the Togetsukyo bridge. 150 Japanese macaque monkey live in this park, and they are roaming around freely. Visitors can feed them fruit and peanuts for a small fee. The entrance fee is 550 yen, and it is open from 9:00 to 17:30.（Closes at 16:30 from November 1 to March 14.)
If you see a postcard from Kyoto, chances are you will see a picture of this bamboo forest. It is one of the most well-loved attractions of the city and with a reason. When you enter this special forest, it feels like you are entering a different world. You will have a feeling of being indoors even though you are outside, and sounds seem to travel in a different way. Entrance is free, and the grove is green throughout the seasons.
The Otagi Nenbutsu-ji is a Buddhist temple founded in the eighth century. The special attractions of this temple are the more than 1200 rakan, small stone statues of the disciples of Buddha. The entrance fee is 300 yen, and the temple is open from 8:00 to 17:00 every day.