Thursday, January 12, 2017

[Japan 2016] Arashiyama: Tenryuji Temple + Togetsukyo Bridge + Bamboo Groves

Photo By: Elin Chow

Good morning! We started our second day of our 7D6N Japan Trip early the next morning. After washing up, we set off to our first destination of the day - Arashiyama. Located on the Western outskirts of Kyoto surrounded by mountains, Arashiyama is one of the major and best known tourist attractions in Kyoto.

The fastest and easiest way to get to Arashiyama from Kyoto Station is by the JR train. Most of the major attractions of Arashiyama can be reached in a 5 - 10 minutes walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station along the JR Sagano Line. The entire train ride takes about 15 minutes, making Arashiyama the perfect place for a day trip from Kyoto.

At Kyoto Station, the train to Arashiyama depart from track 32 or 33. To get to JR Saga-Arashiyama, you can take either the rapid or local train bound for Kameoka and Sonobe. However, please do not take the limited express train as they do not stop at Saga-Arashiyama Station.

JR Saga-Arashiyama Station is located 6th station from Kyoto Station if you take the local train and third station from Kyoto Station if you take the rapid train. The JR Sagano Line is covered by the JR Pass. For those who do not have a JR Pass, the one way fare from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station is 240 Yen.

Besides JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, the Arashiyama area is also serviced by Keifuku Arashiyama Station and Hankyu Arashiyama Station. You can use the Keifuku (or Randen) Railway and Hankyu Railway to get to Arashiyama, both of which are not covered by the JR Pass. All the stations are conveniently located in Arashiyama, so which line you take depend greatly on your starting point in Kyoto.

If you are alighting from from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, you will first encounter the Saga Torokko Station where you can catch a ride on the Sagano Romantic Train. We had initially planned to catch a ride on the Sagano Romantic Train because we were told that this is a must try for any visitors visiting Arashiyama. But unfortunately, all tickets were sold out days or even weeks in advance.

The Sagano Romantic Train is very popular during the autumn color and cherry blossom seasons and tickets tend to sell out very quickly during these peak periods. However, it is still possible to buy standing-room tickets if all seats are sold out.

Located beside Saga Torokko Station is the Steam Locomotive and Piano Museum with historical locomotives and pianos on display. Locomotives and pianos? What an unusual combination! However, we did not pay to enter the museum because we have no interest in history.

At the entrance of the museum, you will find an old train model on display. There is also a cafe at the museum where you can purchase some snacks and drinks.

Arashiyama is a very touristy district, popular among locals and international tourists, so the area is always very crowded, especially during the spring cherry blossom and fall color seasons. Thus, I would suggest that you visit as early as you could for a more tranquil experience.

There is so much to do and see at Arashiyama area, so I recommend allocating at least half a day for your visit. In fact, I feel that even half a day is not really enough to fully experience the beauty of Arashiyama. I wish we could stay here for an entire day.

Alighting at Saga-Arashiyama Station, we followed the stream of tourists that led us through the busy Arashiyama Shopping Street lined with tea house, souvenir shops and restaurants. The main street of Arashiyama is crowded with rickshaws, cars and sightseeing tourists.

Arriving at a crossroad, we took a left turn and continued down the street, looking for a place to eat. Without even realizing, we ended up at Keifuku Arashiyama Station, a newly renovated building packed with various food stalls and souvenirs shops. If you interested to know what I bought in Arashiyama, please read my "Huge Beauty + Snacks Shopping Haul" post.

Unlike all other train stations that you will see in Japan, the Keifuku Arashiyama Station do not have ticket barriers. The Keifuku line or Randen is a streetcar running in Western Kyoto, connecting Omiya Station at Omiya Shijo and Arashiyama Station.

Feeling hungry, we decided to grab some quick breakfast from one of the food stalls at the Station.

Price: 500 Yen

Curry Udon

Price: 500 Yen

Although it was really cheap, it was delicious. The Udon was very chewy, thick and soft with simple and flavorful broth.

Tenryuji Temple

Right across the road from Keifuku Arashiyama Station is Tenryuji Temple, the largest temple in Arashiyama district.

Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, Tenryuji Temple is accessible directly from the main street.

Ranked as first of the Five Great Zen Temple in Kyoto, Tenryuji Temple is the most prestigious temple in Arashiyama district.

There are two entrances to the temple, one on the left side (across the road from Keifuku Arashiyama Station) and another one on the right side. The one on the left side is for vehicles (but pedestrians can also enter from this entrance) and the one on the right side is solely for pedestrians.

We took the entrance at the right side, passing through a large parking lot shadowed by colorful maple trees.

Tenryuji Temple is opens from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm daily and there is an entrance fee to enter the temple. The entrance fee to the gardens only was 500 Yen. There was a separate 300 Yen entrance fee to enter the temple building.

Most of the famous temples in the area charge an entrance fee ranging from 300 Yen to 1,000 Yen. We did not pay to enter the temple because we were traveling on limited budget.

Although there are entrance fee to enter the gardens and temple building, the general grounds of the temple are free to wander around. This means that people with limited budget can also enjoy the Arashiyama district without spending a penny. It is worth visiting to enjoy the spectacular fall colors around the temple grounds.

At the left entrance of the temple, you will find the Hojochi Pond filled with lotus flowers. In autumn, the lotus flowers wither and rot in winter. Besides Spring and Autumn, locals and foreign tourists also flock to Tenryuji Temple during summer when the lotus are in bloom, making it a all year destination.

Autumn in Arashiyama is great with clear blue skies, colorful leaves and perfect cooling weather. Tenryuji Temple is particularly beautiful during Autumn with its magnificent maple leaves on the approach road to the temple, and this is also the reason why people flock here.

Despite the massive crowds, everything feels peaceful and calm. The temple grounds are very spacious and well spread out, so we did not feel like we were in a large crowds. It was comfortable to walk around the area without bumping into anyone.

Togetsukyo bridge

Standing at 375 meters high, Arashiyama mountain is covered by brilliant yellow, orange and red maple leaves and stretches along the Katsura River. The landscape is said to be beautiful throughout the year.

There is a small pier on the river with lots of paddle boats available for rental. The boat is steered by three boatmen and can hold up to ten people. Take a cruise down the river to enjoy the seasonal beauty of Arashiyama.

Along the river, you will also find a lot of rickshaws available for hire. Hiring a one of the best way to see Arashiyama if you do not wish to do sightseeing on foot.

Sit back and relax while your rickshaw driver pull you through and around Arashiyama. Prices generally range from 5,000 Yen - 7,000 Yen depending where you want to go. The driver also acts as a guide, providing a relaxing tour around the area. However, most of the Rickshaw drivers do not speak English. But they still try their best to make your experience enjoyable.

Located at the center of the river is Togetsukyo bridge, the most iconic landmark in Arashiyama district. Measuring 155 meters long, the bridge spans across Katsura River, offering a spectacular view of the Arashiyama mountain and surrounding area.

Strolling down the pathway along the river, we saw an old man painting the colorful mountain.

The area around Togetsukyo Bridge is always very busy, especially during the spring cherry blossom and fall seasons. The pathways and bridge are filled with hundreds of tourists walking around bumping into each other. It was not certainly not a very pleasant experience.

We stood on the bridge in silence, admiring the scenery. But unfortunately, the sky is really gloomy on the day we visited, so I could not take better pictures. The dark sky seems to give a very gloomy atmosphere to my pictures.

Bamboo Grove

Located about 10 minutes from Togetsukyo Bridge is the well-known Bamboo Grove. This is certainly one of the places I look forward to seeing in Arashiyama.

Despite being a popular attraction, we found the Bamboo Grove a little difficult to locate because there were not exactly many signs around. We spent a bit of time wandering around and eventually, we found ourselves ended up on a little sidewalk that is unmarked.

Bamboo Grove is open 24 hours a week and entrance is free. The path is flanked by thousands of tall bamboos on both sides swaying peacefully in the breeze. Walking under shade of towering bamboo, I felt as though I have entered into a magical world. My heart felt incredibly peaceful.

The entire path is 500 meters long and you can easily walk the length of it in 5 minutes, which was disappointing as it was so much more smaller than what we have actually expected. It seems impossible to get a nice picture without having anyone in your way because the entire path is crowded with people taking selfies. Well, even if you managed to take some, I believe the photos could not capture the beauty and magic of this place.

The Bamboo Grove of Arashiyama is probably the most photographed tourist sight in Kyoto and is popular among both locals and foreign tourists.Simply google Arashiyama, I believe most pictures you will see will be Bamboo Grove and Togetsukyo Bridge. Along with the thousands Vermillion Torii gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha, the Bamboo Grove of Arashiyama is certainly one of the most famous sight in Kyoto.

The bamboo are used to manufacture various handicraft products, such as baskets, boxes and cups, and you can buy these products from the shops in Arashiyama. I think it will be nice to bring some of these products home as souvenirs or gifts.

Leaving Bamboo Grove, we continued uphill, heading towards the north of central Arashiyama, which I found it to be less touristy and more rural.

We walked through the quiet neighbourhood and secluded residential streets of Arashiyama full of traditional Japanese houses, tiny eateries, lesser known temples and shops.

The quieter part of Arashiyama is also dotted with historical sites, most of them are located quite a distance apart. On this fascinating walk, you will discover many temples that are far away from the crowds, some of which offers really amazing view of autumn maple leaves. But of course, entry is not free.

I took a deep breath of the fresh, crisp air, enjoying the lush greenery and colorful autumn leaves at every turn. However, please be prepared that there will be quite a lot of walking to do, so it will be best to equip yourself with comfortable walking shoes. Most of the areas around Arashiyama are wheelchair and stroller friendly, making it easy destination to get around.

So we kept walking and walking, unsure what to expect. As you walk further uphill in Arashiyama, the crowds start to thin out and this is when you will get to enjoy some tranquility.

I love being surrounded by untouched nature and beautiful autumn foliage, far away from the traffic and crowds. However, detailed maps were not available around this area, so it is easy to get lost in the maze of streets and side alleys.

After hours of endless walking, our legs were aching and our tummies were rumbling. We decided to give up and head back to Arashiyama Shopping Street to search for food. Well, I must admit that I have totally underestimated the size of Arashiyama district. It is a really huge area with plenty to explore. so it is good to come prepared with a list to do and see.

Back at Arashiyama Shopping Street, we randomly walked into a restaurant located just beside Saga Arashiyama Station to refill our extremely tired and hungry body. It is very small restaurant but with great atmosphere.

The restaurant serves typical Japanese food of high quality. Limited English menu with pictures are available, so we did not have any problem ordering our food.

Grilled Japan Beef & Salad Set

Price: 1,130 Yen

Tempura - Large Prawns & Vegetables Set

Price: 1,280 Yen

I ordered the Grilled Japan Beef & Salad Set while my husband ordered the Tempura - Large Prawns & Vegetables Set. The portion sizes were quite small but very filling. Food was delicious with great service, although slightly pricey as expected.

Price: 110 Yen

After lunch, my husband bought a can of hot coffee from the vending machine outside the restaurant. This was very tasty and probably the best I have tasted so far! Sweetened and blended with mellow milk, the coffee has a very nice aroma and a very smooth after taste. Most importantly, it was not too sweet or bitter at all!

Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, surrounded by mountains and natural scenery on all sides, Arashiyama is a perfect place to unwind. The area is absolutely stunning and you will find beauty in every direction. Be sure bring to have your camera ready, or you may regret. This is definitely a must-see destination for those visiting Kyoto.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 7 days in Japan. For anyone planning your first trip to Japan but have no idea where to start, you should read my "How To Plan A Trip To Japan" post.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates on my 7 days adventures in Japan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.


  1. What a comprehensive post on what to expect in Arashiyama. I'm heading to Japan next week and can't wait to visit Kyoto.

  2. Hi Elin,

    Is Tenryu-ji accessible to wheelchair users?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi,

      Yes, it is accessible to wheelchair users

  3. Hi .may i know the exact date u went to japan?

    1. Hi,

      I visited on 19th Nov to 26th Nov last year

    2. Its peak autumn beautiful ☺

    3. Yes, I think it will end around start of Dec.

  4. Hi! Thank you for sharing. Is there any luggage storage at Saga Arashiyama station?

    1. Hi, I think there are lockers at the station, but limited. If you could, I would suggest that you store your luggage at Kyoto Station.

  5. Hi, may I know if there are a lot of stair to climb? As my 2 grandparents (age about 80) had wanted to visit japan, so we are thinking of a family holiday to japan. As their age about 80, they are quite slow in walking and hated climbing stairs.

    1. Hi,

      There are not really a lot of stairs to climb, but quite a lot of walking to do.