Arashiyama and Bamboo Grove Walking Tour, Kyoto

Arashiyama and Bamboo Grove Walking Tour (Self Guided), Kyoto

The Arashiyama district is slightly out of way for tourists – but that just means one can enjoy it more comfortably. While arguably the most popular attraction here is the 'bamboo path' with its magnificent, towering bamboos, you should also enjoy other scenic attractions such as the Ōi River and Mount Arashi, or the Monkey Park, all within walking distance and selected/described in this self-guided tour. The scenery is unparalleled and therapeutic especially if you visit Kyoto during sakura season or when the autumn leaves change color. There is also a welcoming rustic town with lots of shops and restaurants, or you can check out a few ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) if your budget can support it.
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Arashiyama and Bamboo Grove Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Arashiyama and Bamboo Grove Walking Tour
Guide Location: Japan » Kyoto (See other walking tours in Kyoto)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Saga-Arashiyama Station / Sagano Romantic Train
  • Okochi Sanso Villa
  • Arashiyama Bamboo Path
  • Tenryu-ji Temple – Sogenchi Garden
  • Tenryu-ji Temple
  • Togetsukyo Bridge
  • Horin-ji Temple
  • Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
Saga-Arashiyama Station / Sagano Romantic Train

1) Saga-Arashiyama Station / Sagano Romantic Train

Lovers of train rides and scenic nature should reserve their tickets online for the Sagano Romantic Train and enjoy some of the best sightseeing around Kyoto – especially in late March to early April (cherry-blossom time) or November (for colorful foliage). Traveling from Arashiyama through the forested ravine and into rural Kameoka, the charming old-fashioned train has five cars/cabins, one of which – called “The Rich” – features an open design right down to the floor, which is great for panoramic views. Tickets are ¥630 per ride (one way) and you will need to ride back if you want to continue on in Arashiyama.

You can also take a 2-hour river tour back from Kameoka, which is – again – highly recommended for a great experience of rafting and beautiful sightseeing; note, however, that the river tour tickets can only be bought by the time you check-in at Saga-Arashiyama terminal, on a first-come-first-served basis. Whatever your choice, don't wait until arriving at Kameoka to buy a boat ticket, because you won't have enough time for such things. In fact, you will only have 10 minutes to walk from Kameoka terminal to the bus station where the bus will take you to the departure point of the boat cruise.

Inside the Saga-Arashiyama train station itself, you will find train souvenirs galore (the DVD of the train ride is a bargain!), as well as the Diorama Kyoto Japan, featuring model railroads and painstakingly recreated miniature versions of Kyoto's historical sites and neighborhood scenes. Well worth a visit by young and old!

For better sightseeing, choose rides departing in the morning or the early afternoon. Be aware that the railway may not operate on Wednesdays and in the cold season.
Okochi Sanso Villa

2) Okochi Sanso Villa

Located in Arashiyama, Kyoto, the Ōkōchi Sansō (literally "Okochi Mountain Villa") is the former home and garden of the Japanese period film actor Denjirō Ōkōchi. The villa is open to the public for an admission fee and is known for its gardens and views of the Kyoto area. Several of the buildings are recorded as cultural properties by the national government.

The grounds of the villa encompass approximately 20,000 square meters and feature multiple buildings, including a Japanese style home, tea houses, and shrines, located amidst carefully maintained Japanese gardens. They were built up over a period of thirty years by Ōkōchi to function as one of his residences but were eventually opened to the public after his death in 1962. The main structures were built in the 1930s and 1940s except for the Jibutsudō, which is a Meiji Era building that was moved to this site. The various gardens were designed to show off each of the four seasons. Since the villa is located on top of a hill, the city of Kyoto, Mt. Hiei, and the Hozu River gorge are well visible from points on the grounds.

Why You Should Visit:
Worth the entry price for a much calmer, less crowded area among the bamboo groves and for the scenic views.
Admission includes a cup of matcha green tea and cake in the tea house.
There are plenty of sitting areas inside or outside of the tea house to relax.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Arashiyama Bamboo Path

3) Arashiyama Bamboo Path (must see)

Conveniently situated next to the Tenryu-ji Temple in Arashiyama district and connected to hidden shrines, this small forested area of gorgeous bamboo standing tall is costs nothing to enjoy, and if you head out early in the morning on weekdays you will (almost) have it to yourself. If luck is on your side (with little tourist influx), you'll hear the clink of the canes leaning into each other and – on a bright day – find streams of light escaping through the bamboo and making their way to the ground. It's an easy and relatively short walk, allowing to explore one of the “10 most beautiful tree tunnels in the world” before proceeding to other Arashiyama sights.
Tenryu-ji Temple – Sogenchi Garden

4) Tenryu-ji Temple – Sogenchi Garden

One of Kyoto's very best sights, the garden surrounding Tenryu-ji Temple is a perfect fusion of white sand in wave patterns, moss, flowers, trees, and a stunning collection of rocks/stones arranged upon a pond. Unlike the temple's buildings, it has survived the centuries in its original 14th-century form. Set against the backdrop of Arashiyama's forested mountains, it all fits together perfectly.

Take your time for a relaxing stroll by the pond for some stunning vistas and photo opportunities. This garden is not huge – visiting alongside the temple (note that you need to get a ticket for both) will take you less than an hour to complete even walking slowly. Even if you don't pay to go into the temple buildings, you can see into some of them as you walk around the pond.
Tenryu-ji Temple

5) Tenryu-ji Temple

Tenryu-ji Temple is one of the five great Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto. It is managed by the Rinzai School of Buddhism and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Tenryu-ji Temple was built by the Shogun, Ashikaga Takauji in 1339. He dedicated the temple to the Emperor Go- Daigo. Most of the temple buildings were destroyed by fire and others suffered extensive damage during the Onin war. The present buildings date back to early 20th century. The only surviving feature of the original temple is the pond and gardens designed by well known landscape designer, Muso Soseki.

The Tenryu-ji Temple has many unique features compared to other Zen temples. While most Zen temples are built facing the south, the building faces east. The two gates, the Chokushi Gate and the Middle Gate guard the eastern part of the temple. The Chokushi Gate is the oldest structure in the complex. The path from the gate leads west to the main hall and the sub temples are located on either side of the path. The Main Hall has an image of Gautama Buddha and two guardians and the ceiling has a painting of a dragon by artist, Suzuki Shonen. It is also the last resting place of Emperors Go-Saiga and Kageyama.
Togetsukyo Bridge

6) Togetsukyo Bridge

Also known as the "Moon Crossing Bridge", Togetsukyo is right in the center of Arashiyama and straddles the Katsura River in front of Mount Arashi. Its ends are adjacent to the Tenryū-ji Temple/Bamboo Forest on the north end and the Monkey Park at the south end.

With a spectacular backdrop of fall foliage and full-blown cherry blossoms in the spring, this famous landmark was originally built in the Heian Period (794-1185) and was last renovated in the 1930s. Though it looks all wooden from a distance, the columns and beams are made of reinforced concrete and only the parapets use cypress trees.

The poetic name was inspired by Emperor Kameyama who witnessed a by a shimmering moon rising above the surface of the river, appearing as though the moon itself was crossing the bridge. Since then, it has seen feudal wars, hosted samurai battles, and inspired some of the best haiku poems.

You can take photos from different sides and angles, buy souvenirs from the shops at each end, ride a rickshaw along the river banks, have a picnic by the water or a bite from the food stalls and many restaurants nearby. From July to September, you can also experience cormorant fishing in the evenings.

A short stroll across the bridge will lead you to a small pier full of rental boats, so jump on a boat cruise if you can!
Horin-ji Temple

7) Horin-ji Temple

On a hill above Arashiyama's famous Togetsukyō bridge sits Hōrin-ji, a Shingon Buddhist temple with a Kokūzō Bosatsu, known to be one of the three most highly recognized Bodhisattvas in Japan for making you wiser and helping you master more quickly whatever you might be learning.

In fact, one of the most interesting celebrations hosted here (on December 8th) is "Hari-Kuyō" – a memorial to all the sewing needles broken in Japanese women's service during the past year, and an opportunity to pray for improved skills. "Jusan Mairi" is even more important a tradition whereby children who turned 13 y.o. pray at the Kokūzō Bosatsu for wisdom for a successful future. Afterwards, superstition says, they must cross Togetsukyo Bridge without saying a single word, or the wisdom they received would be lost. On or around this day, many families visit with their girls dressed in blinding bright kimonos and posing like they're just the best things alive.

The temple complex features a nice platform with outstanding views over Arashiyama and the surrounding hills, but check out the vegan restaurant next to it too, as well as the unusual Shinto shrine dedicated to a God who vigorously guards electricity, electronics and radio waves. Look closely and you may even find a memorial with plaques of Thomas Edison and Heinrich Rudolf Hertz nearby (though, sadly, not a mention of the God of electric lightning himself – Nikola Tesla aka the Thor of Serbia).

It's nice just to walk around the complex and to enjoy the architecture from the outside, at no cost.
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama

8) Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama (must see)

Iwatayama Monkey Park is certainly a fun place for anyone who loves wildlife and animals. The park is famous for having a lot of free monkeys that can be found everywhere walking, jumping or eating. On the top of the hill, there is a small place where people can rest and admire the city panorama. The park is on Mt Arashiyama, on the same side of the Oi River as the train station. It is inhabited by a troop of over 170 Japanese macaque monkeys. The animals are wild but can be fed food purchased at the site.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful walk through the forest to get to a very close encounter with lots of monkeys.
The monkeys walk alongside you and are very fun to watch – especially the youngest ones.

Go early in the day and/or when the weather is a bit cooler. The hike is about 20 minutes and definitely feels nicer when it's not so hot.
Pay attention to the guards in the area – they'll help you identify the monkeys friendly enough to take photos with.
Whatever you do, don't look at the monkeys in the eyes, as it may make them nervous and aggressive.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm (Apr-Oct); 9am-4:30 (Nov-Mar); entry ends 30 minutes earlier
Closed on days with heavy rain or snow
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Kyoto, Japan

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