When the majority of people hear the word "Arashiyama," the famous Kyoto bamboo forest is likely the first thing that pops into their head. After all, it's what Arashiyama is most famous for. Photos of the bamboo forest (also called the bamboo grove) have appeared on countless travel guide covers, in thousands of brochures, and probably in thousands of blog posts before mine!
The bamboo forest is definitely one hundred thousand percent worth a visit for anyone visiting Arashiyama. Whether you visit on a day the path is crowded with people, or whether you have the place to yourself doesn't really matter - it's a lovely place to visit no matter what. I've been to the bamboo forest around ten times, and still keep going back!
Aside from a visit to the bamboo forest, no visit to Arashiyama would be complete without stopping to admire the 400 year old Togetsukyo Bridge which spans 155 meters across the Katsura River.
Bamboo Forest and Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama, Kyoto.
For those who love the water, taking a sightseeing boat upstream through Rankyo Gorge may be a good idea. Otherwise, if you don't mind a little physical activity, row boats are also available for hire, although they aren't allowed upstream as far as the sightseeing boats. You can find ticket counters for both just a couple of minutes walk from the bridge, walking in the direction of the mountains.
It looks like a great place to spend some time on the water, doesn't it?
I often take a rest along the river before heading back to the train station at the end of a long day of sightseeing, soaking in the atmosphere as much as possible before heading home.
Anyway, you most likely have all of the above on your itinerary already, so let's take a look at what else there is to see and do in Arashiyama including some popular Arashiyama attractions, as well as some attractions less frequented by tourists.
Appreciate the beauty of Hogon-in Temple
Hogon-in is one of Arashiyama's smaller gardens, and actually a sub temple of Tenryuji Temple, which I'll mention a little later.
The Hogon-in temple garden was originally established in the 16th century by a monk named Sakugen Shuryo. The garden is unlike any other due to the interesting rocks displayed in the garden, some which represent animals, others which tell a story.
The garden of Hogon-in seamlessly blends into the mountains surrounding the garden, adding a little something special to the experience.
It is a great garden to visit at any time of year, however the colors become much more vibrant in Autumn when the green color of the moss and the red color of the Japanese maple leaves contrast against each other. The little stream running through the garden is a lovely touch.
The temple itself has a large collection of sliding door paintings by Japanese artist Noriko Tamura.
Entry fee at the time of my visit was 600 yen for adults, and less for children.
Name in Japanese: 宝厳院
Address in English:〒616-8385 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, ３６
Address in Japanese: 〒616-8385 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町３６
Admire the floral display at Nison-in Temple
Nison-in was originally constructed between 834-848, but was sadly destroyed by fire during the Onin War in the mid 1400s. The main hall and Imperial gate that you see today were reconstructed in 1521, but have since been refurbished.
The temple has strong ties with the Imperial family, and the graveyard is said to hold the ashes of three former Emperors.
Nison-in is a little further away from the station than most other popular sightseeing spots in Arashiyama, however, I highly recommend walking the extra distance to Nison-in if you happen to visit Arashiyama on an extremely busy day, as you'll be able to get some relief from the crowds. Entry at the time of my visit was 500 yen for adults (less for children), which I thought was reasonable.
This is a temple that I was lucky enough to visit in autumn. If you time your visit perfectly, you'll find Japanese Maple trees changing from green to yellow to red, and Gingko trees changing from green to yellow on the temple grounds. I especially liked the water feature that incorporated red autumn leaves. Apparently the temple is known for its seasonal floral displays. Beautiful!
Name in Japanese: 二尊院
Address in English: 〒616-8425 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Saganisonin Monzen Chojincho, ２７
Address in Japanese: 〒616-8425 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨二尊院門前長神町２７
Watch your step at Okochi Sanso Garden
The lovely grounds spanning two hectares (around five acres) were originally the home of the famous Japanese actor Okochi Denjiro (1898-1962). After his death, the gardens were opened up for the public to enjoy. In addition to the beautiful garden, there is also a traditional Japanese home, tea house and small shrine on the grounds.
Okochi Sanso Garden is conveniently located at the end of the Sagano bamboo forest path, and close to the north entrance of Tenryuji Temple. The walk from the north entrance of Tenryuiji to the entrance of Okochi Sanso Garden can be quite steep in parts, but should only take about 5-10 minutes walking at a leisurely pace, including time to stop and take photos.
The entrance for adults cost 1,000 yen at the time of my visit, less for children. It may seem a bit expensive, but the entry cost includes a little treat at the tea house.
The paths are simply stunning, but be sure to watch your step!
This was the matcha drink and Japanese sweet that was included in the entry cost. It was lovely taking a rest in such peaceful surroundings.
Name in Japanese: 大河内山荘庭園
Address in English: 8 Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8394
Address in Japanese: 〒616-8394 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨小倉山田淵山町８
Visit one of the oldest gardens in Japan at Tenryu-ji Temple
Tenryu-ji Temple was originally established in 1339 and as such, has an extremely long history. It is known as one of the five great temples of Kyoto, and was designated as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994.
The temple has been destroyed by fire almost ten times, with the most recent destructive fire being in 1864. Due to this, the majority of the buildings you see on the temple grounds only date back to sometime during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Despite this, the Japanese garden (called Sogenchi Garden) you see today actually dates back to the 14th century and is considered to be one of the oldest gardens in Japan.
The name Tenryu-ji actually translates to 'Temple of the Heavenly Dragon', with inspiration for the name perhaps being taken from the dragon that adorns the ceiling in the Dharma Hall.
Ticketing here depends on which part of the temples grounds you wish to access. There are three main sites - Sogenchi Garden, the buildings (not including Dharma Hall), and Dharma Hall. Please check the official website for more information on ticketing and to read more about the long history of the temple.
Name in Japanese: 天龍寺
Address in English: 〒616-8385 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, ６８
Address in Japanese: 〒616-8385 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町６８
Walk up the hill to Arashiyama Park Observation Deck
This is a small area of a public park that has a lovely view over the mountains of Arashiyama and Katsura River. You can often see sightseeing boats going up and down the river, which makes the view even more spectacular.
There are a couple of small benches so you can sit and enjoy the view while taking a rest. Entry is entirely free.
Name in Japanese: 嵐山公園亀山地区 頂上展望台
Address in English: 6 Sagakamenoocho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8386
Address in Japanese: 〒616-8386 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨亀ノ尾町6
The places mentioned in this blog post are wonderful to visit at any time of year. Summer will fill the gardens and temples with greenery, autumn will provide some amazing reds and yellows for you to admire, spring will bring about soft pink cherry blossoms, and in winter you may experience glistening snow. I often visit locations more than once to experience the difference depending on the seasons.
If you're interested in doing a guided tour of Arashiyama I recommend taking a look at this page which has a wide variety of tours on offer.
Oh, and if you're visiting, don't forget to stroll along the main streets for souvenir shopping and a bite to eat. Hint: Arashiyama is known for its delicious tofu!
Let me know in the comments below which place in Arashiyama you'd like to visit!
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