Arashiyama (嵐山), Kyoto (京都) is one of Japan’s best sightseeing spots. With its traditional atmosphere and beautiful views of cherry blossom trees during springtime, who wouldn’t want to visit?
If you don’t know your way around, however, you could be wasting time and energy instead of enjoying its scenery. This is where rickshaw tours come into the picture.
A rickshaw is a two- or three-wheeled cart with one man pulling it while carrying passengers. It was invented in Japan around 1869 during the Tokugawa (徳川) period (1603 to 1868) when the ban on wheeled vehicles was lifted.
The term originated from the Japanese word jinrikisha (人力車), which literally translates to “human-powered vehicle”. It’s a popular mode of transportation today, especially for tourists who have limited time yet want to get around as much as possible without getting lost.
There’s a saying that there’s no better way to explore a place than meeting and talking to its locals. After all, who would be a better tour guide than the people who are living and breathing its way of life?
Rickshaw drivers, or shafu, can tour you around Arashiyama in style. They can take you to the most scenic spots, from the Bamboo Grove to each corner of Arashiyama’s temples and gardens. You don’t have to break a sweat because you’ll be sitting comfortably in their cart. Most of the carts have canvas roofing to protect you from the sun or if in case it starts to drizzle, which is common during the spring season.
In addition, rickshaw drivers have more than just the ability to pull carts that can weigh up to 150kg. They undergo training programs that focus on safety and hospitality. They can even give you tips that you won’t find in guidebooks! All these are to give their customers the best possible experience.
Rickshaws are all around Arashiyama, but they’re often found near Togetsu-kyo (渡月橋) or the Moon Crossing Bridge. The bridge is also a common meetup and pickup point if you’ve booked a tour beforehand. Here are some things to remember.
- Tours can be as short as 15 minutes, but you can also go on a full-course tour that lasts for two to three hours.
- The price depends on the length of the tour and whether you’ll be riding alone or with a companion.
- You can find a rickshaw as early as 9:00am and as late as 5:30pm.
- Children below six years old are often free of charge.
- Many rickshaw drivers allow one adult passenger and two children (under six years old) or two adult passengers with one or two children (under six years old) provided that they sit on an adult’s lap.
It helps to have even the slightest knowledge in Japanese so you can communicate with your driver well. There are rickshaw drivers who can speak fluent English, but it may be difficult to find them during the peak season. EBISUYA takes online bookings.
Why should you try riding a rickshaw when visiting Arashiyama? The correct question is why shouldn’t you? It’s an experience you wouldn’t want to miss in Kyoto.