Without a doubt, Kyoto has become one of tourist’s favorites in Japan because of its intact and well preserved cultural heritage sites. It is nestled with numerous shrines and temples as well as beautiful nature that turns into inflamed shades of red in autumn or colorful blooms in spring.
There’s a lot of places to wander in Kyoto whether you want to find inner tranquility with nature or an intimate experience with the Japanese culture. Either ways, the deciding factor would be how much time you have to explore this beautiful place. If you only have limited time, I strongly recommend that you don’t miss spending a day in the Arashiyama area.
Arashiyama is a district in the far western outskirts of Kyoto. It derived its name from the mountain across the Oi River which creates a beautiful backdrop to a seemingly old-fashioned bridge which brings you to a place of wonders. Yes! Arashiyama is designated as a national historic site and a place of scenic beauty. With that said, I must have already convinced you. If not, then let the photos we took from our trip speak for themselves.
From Kyoto Station, we boarded the train of the Hankyu-Arashiyama Line and got off at the Arashiyama Station. From here, we walked about 5 minutes to Togetsukyo bridge which is Arashiyama’s central landmark. Of course, the best thing to do is walk across the famous bridge, breath the fresh air from the mountains and listen to the relaxing sound of the river’s running water. It just felt the perfect way to start a wonderful day!
From the bridge, we walked to the Sagano Bamboo Forest. This is one of the most iconic spots in Kyoto so I suggest you come here as early as possible to get ahead of the crowd. Near the entrance to the Bamboo Forest, there are lots of food stalls and various street foods to choose from so there’s absolutely nothing to worry about if you ever get hungry along the way.
Unsurprisingly, nature always find ways of bringing smile to every faces and that was very true as I walked along this beautiful path of towering green bamboo trees. As I was enjoying the whole walk, I could see genuine smiles and laughter from other people I meet along the way and one of the most beautiful sight was a father and a son, running along the span of the whole path while holding each other’s hands. It was truly a magnificent sight!
Along the bamboo path is the entrance to one of Kyoto’s five great Zen temples, the Tenryu-ji Temple. It is designated as a world heritage site with a wonderful view of the Arashiyama mountain and a gorgeous garden inside. We were lucky to come here when the leaves are on their way to showcase their beautiful autumn colors. We payed an entrance fee of 500 yen and it was totally worth it.
Most of the tourists gather in the main hall and spend a lot of time from there. But I say, the best way to enjoy this place is to take a stroll and discover beautiful spots along the way. Surely, you’ll find a spot every now and then that you can enjoy all for yourself and have nice shots with lesser people and more of nature.
After exploring the beautiful temple grounds, we headed to the Okochi Sanso Villa right at the end of the Bamboo Forest. The villa is a former home and garden of the Japanese period film actor, Denjiro Okochi which is now open to the public.
This place has instantly become one of my favorites as it has lesser crowds than the other places in Arashiyama but it doesn’t mean it’s less attractive at all. A lot of tourists back out due to its higher admission fee of 1,000 yen but once you enter the premises, you’ll definitely know why!
A pure matcha tea and a Japanese sweets on one of the villa’s tea house is included in the admission ticket. It’s a great chance to experience the Japanese tradition of drinking pure matcha tea which is now considered as one of the most powerful super foods in the market due to its many health benefits and loaded antioxidants. Personally, I’m not a fan of matcha but this is probably one of the reasons why Japanese people lives longer than any other people in the world.
The garden around the villa is just so stunning, you can’t help but make a lot of stops along the way. It is especially gorgeous during fall when autumn leaves paint the surroundings in striking red hue.
There are still a lot of other places to explore in this beautiful area so if you have time to spare, a day would be great to stroll around and discover hidden gems away from the most touristy parts of Arashiyama.
If you don’t have a whole day to stroll around Arashiyama as you have only limited time in Kyoto, then you probably want to include the famous Kinkakuji Temple in your itinerary. Good thing, the Kinkakuji Temple, also called the Golden Pavilion is an easy access from the Arashiyama area. From the Saga-Arashiyama Station, we boarded the train of the San-In Line and got off at Emmachi Station. From there, we rode the bus which took us directly to the entrance of the Kinkakuji Temple.
Kinkakuji is recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It is a Zen Temple in Northern Kyoto and is very famous for its unique exterior whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It is situated in the midst of a large pond backdropped in beautiful lush green of the surrounding garden.
When you come here, you better be prepared of the hordes of tourists and locals who visit the temple. Though it could get too crowded along the surroundings of the pond, everyone is guaranteed to have a fair share of witnessing the grandeur of the pavilion’s seemingly shining structure. It indeed deserves the recognition it receives. Taking a good photo with this beautiful structure wouldn’t be easy at all but it wouldn’t hurt to wait a little for a perfect time to get a snap of this magnificent work of art. It is open from 9a.m. to 5p.m. everyday with an admission fee of 400 yen.
From Kinkakuji, we boarded the bus back to Kyoto Station and concluded the day with a delicious dinner. There are various choices of Japanese foods at the station’s 11th and 12th floor so be sure to check it out.
Kyoto is a great place to travel and explore. It has relics of history scattered all over its beautiful nature. I’m sure you would agree that it’s better to spend more days in this this wonderful place but if you’re a traveler like me who only have a rare opportunity to visit Japan, then I hope this will help you make the best of your day in Kyoto.