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Arashiyama is located in the north-western part of Kyoto, Japan and is one of the city’s most popular sightseeing districts. The district is located at the base of Arashiyama Mountain and is a great way to escape the city for a day and immerse yourself in nature.
Arashiyama is famous for its beautiful bamboo grove, but there are so many other incredible things to see as well. The ancient town is full of shrines, gardens, temples, and great food. A day trip is easily doable from Kyoto city and is definitely worth the trip. Continue reading to discover the best things to do in Arashiyama, Japan.
How to Get to Arashiyama
Arashiyama is an easy day trip from downtown Kyoto. It’s located on the outskirts of Kyoto and no matter what your mode of transportation, it will take roughly 30 minutes to reach from the city center.
The train is probably the easiest and most cost-effective way to reach Arashiyama. From the Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano/ San-in Main Line to Saga-Arashiyama. The train ride is about 15 minutes long and then an additional 10-minute walk to Arashiyama’s main sights. One way costs 240 JPY. If you’ll be spending some time in Japan, I highly recommend purchasing a JR Rail Pass.
From the Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus #28 and get off at Arashiyama-Tenryuji-Mae. The bus ride will take at least 30 minutes and cost 230 JPY.
From the Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station and change to the Tozai Subway line heading west. Get off at the last stop, Uzumasa-Tenjingawa, and change to the Randen Street tram to Keifuku Arashiyama Station.
A taxi to Arashiyama from downtown Kyoto will take about 25 minutes and cost 2000 JPY.
Things to Do in Arashiyama:
1. Explore the Bamboo Forest
The forest is commonly referred to as the Arashiyama bamboo forest or grove, but its official name is the Sagano Bamboo Forest. It’s one of the top things to do in Arashiyama and is on many a bucket list. The bamboo forest is a natural forest but paved pathways have been carved through it, making it a great place for a morning walk or bike ride. It’s not a huge forest (the entire walk is only about 15-20 minutes long), but the height of the bamboo stalks make it impressive.
It is one of the most photographed locations in the city of Kyoto, but if you can find a time when it’s not packed with tourists, you can hear the relaxing sounds of the wind blowing through the stalks. The walkway is open 24 hours and the forest is free to visit. However, if you want photos without the crowds, I recommend arriving just before sunrise.
2. Discover Tenryu-ji Temple
Tenryu-ji is one of the most important Zen temples in the area and was first recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. It was originally established in 1339. However, most of its buildings were lost to fires and wars throughout the centuries and the buildings that stand today are reconstructions from the early 1900s. The pond and many of the garden areas still look as they originally did.
I suggest visiting in the morning and making Tenryu-ji your second stop after visiting the bamboo forest. It is just a five-minute walk from the forest entrance. The gardens are peaceful and are especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season. The cost is 500 JPY to explore the gardens and another 300 JPY to enter the temple’s buildings. Garden hours are 8:30 am- 5:30 pm, but building hours change with the season and can be found here.
3. Grab Lunch on Shopping Street
The main road in Arashiyama is full of great shopping and amazing food. The street is incredibly touristic and almost always packed with visitors; however, it is definitely worth a visit. If you wish to explore the town by bike, there are a couple of places that offer rentals. The street runs for a few blocks through town and is packed with small shops selling souvenirs and Japanese crafts. There are beautiful handmade fans, silk pouches, and other fun trinkets.
Mixed in between the shops are great restaurants and cafes. Here you will find sweets galore. Matcha ice cream, mochi balls, and pastries can be found just about anywhere you look. I stopped at the popular bakery, Miffy Sakura for some of their delicious treats. There is also great street food in the area. There are vendors set up along the main street, but most can be found on the adjacent side streets.
4. Admire the Views from Togetsukyo Bridge
Togetsukyo, which translates to “moon-crossing”, is Arashiyama’s most well-known landmark. The construction of the original bridge was completed in 836 but flooding repeatedly damaged the wood construction and a new bridge was built in the 1930s. The bridge that’s in place today is concrete-reinforced and built to withstand Mother Nature.
The bridge spans 155-meters over the Katsura River and provides a spectacular view of Arashiyama Mountain. It’s especially beautiful in the fall when colorful leaves are present, as well as during cherry blossom season. I recommend taking in the views here and then continuing over to explore the other side of the river.
5. Row a Boat on the River
Renting a rowboat is a fun way to take a break from all the walking around you will be doing in Arashiyama. You’ll be able to boat around the lower area of the Hozu River and will be given the chance to take in the beautiful scenery. This is should be a must-do on your list of things to do in Arashiyama. Rowboats are available on the north side of the river at the base of the mountain (look for a small shack near the entrance to the monkey park). Rentals are 1400 JPY/per hour.
Another option is a riverboat cruise. Boat cruises depart from the train station in the city of Kameoka and take you to Arashiyama, so if this is something you wish to do, plan accordingly. The boats are traditional wooden boats and are guided by two men, using oars and bamboo poles. The cruise lasts about two hours and the cost for the tour is about 4,100 JPY/per adult. There are a few different tour operators to choose from and hours vary.
6. Visit Arashiyama Monkey Park
Arashiyama Monkey Park, or as it’s officially called, Iwatayama Monkey Park, is located in the hills of Arashiyama. A group of about 180 macaque monkeys call the mountain home and frequent the park in search of food. The monkeys are wild, but tourists are allowed to feed them approved foods, which are available for purchase.
Since they are wild animals and can bite, there is a designated feeding room. The room is basically a large cage, where you (the human) are inside and feed the monkeys through the wire paneling. Think of it as sort of a reverse-zoo situation. The monkeys are free to come and go as they please and are in no way confined to the park.
The only way to reach the main park area is a thirty-minute walk up a somewhat steep hill. The hike may be a little intense for the elderly or those with health conditions; however, I did see children on the trail. It’s not dangerous, but just exhausting in some areas. There are great views from the top and it’s definitely worth the trip. The entrance to the path is hard to miss. It can be found on the opposite side of the river from the shopping area and is marked with signage. The entrance fee for Arashiyama Monkey Park is 550 JPY.
Where to Stay in Arashiyama
Hearton Hotel Kyoto
Hearton Hotel is a great option for lodging in Kyoto, Japan. It’s fairly central to everything in the city and is just blocks from the metro and bus stops. It’s located about 30 minutes from Arashiyama. It’s a basic hotel, but it is modern, clean, and is the perfect place if you’re on a budget.
Arashiyama Benkei Ryokan
Arashiyama Benki is an elegant traditional Japanese ryokan located in Arashiyama. A ryokan is a Japanese inn that features tatami-matted rooms, futons, a Japanese bath, and a traditional dinner served in the room. The ryokan experience is a special and relaxing one. Arashiyama Benkei has three rooms, one with a private bath, that sit next to the river.
Yado Arshiyama is located in Arashiyama and is situated near the Togetsukyo bridge. Stay near town and experience the peacefulness of Arashiyama early in the morning without the crowds. The rooms are comfortable and have the basic necessities.
Have you visited Arashiyama? I’d love to hear about your favorite things to do in Arashiyama. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or share using the social media buttons below. Looking for more day trips from Kyoto? Nara is only a short train ride away. Learn more about the “City of Deer” in my post, “The Perfect Day Trip to Nara, Japan.”