Famous for its bamboo grove, Arashiyama is a sightseeing district that makes for a really nice day trip from Kyoto. Like many other places in Japan, it presents a different charm with every different season. Autumn presents a very good case as the best time to visit, promising lovely crisp weather, clear skies and a blaze of colours all around the countryside. Here’s our guide of things to do in Arashiyama for your perfect day out 🙂
Things to do in Arashiyama: One Day Itinerary
1. Visit Tenryuji Temple
Getting off the train at Arashiyama station, you can immediately see the signs for Tenryuji Temple. This temple is one of the most prominent landmarks in Arashiyama and a world heritage site. The grounds are especially beautiful in autumn, with all the leaves ablaze in fiery colours. Entrance fee is pegged at JPY 500 (~SGD 6) per adult. Visit in late November to make sure you catch the autumn colours at their best!
2. Walk the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Located at one end of Tenryuji Temple is the entrance to the world-renowned Arashiyama bamboo grove, without a doubt the most famous attraction in the district. You can ignore any “things to do in Arashiyama” list that fails to include this.
For me it was one rare tourist spot that was actually NOT overrated and didn’t disappoint. The walk was a short one, but the atmosphere along the way was sooo serene and otherworldly. It was like there was this impenetrable peace and calm, undisturbed even by the rowdiest of crowds. You really need to experience it for yourself! 🙂
3. Go on a pleasure boat cruise down Katsura River
Leaving the bamboo grove, look for the signs directing you down to the riverbank. There were other paths leading deeper into the mountains but I did not explore them – you can do so if you are feeling a bit adventurous! The riverside area is probably one of the busiest parts of Arashiyama, with visitors milling around and pedlars selling snacks and souvenirs. Get on a pleasure boat cruise for JPY 1100 (~SGD 13.2) per person.
Our boat uncle was amazing – he single-handedly rowed the big boat full of passengers using only one tall wooden pole. Apparently the river was not very deep, so he moved the boat around by pushing against the riverbed using the pole. It’s like punting in England if you’re familiar with it! He told stories along the way but it was all in Japanese.
4. Hike up the mountain to Iwatayama Monkey Park
From where the pleasure boats dock, walk along the river and cross the famous Tsutenkyo Bridge (another Arashiyama landmark!) to the reach the entrance of the monkey park.
We paid JPY 550 (~SGD 6.6) per adult for entry. From the ticket booth it was around a half-hour hike up the mountain to reach the monkeys. I personally am not a fan of monkeys, but the view from the top was really nice.
5. Do yourself a favour and eat Zeppin Cream Puff
At JPY 250 (~SGD 3) apiece, this was pure magic. Hands down the BEST cream puff I have ever had, EVER. It was so good we went back for second helpings. If you are ever in Arashiyama, do yourself a favour and try this cream puff. The stall is located by the river -you’ll see it on your right as you come down the path from the bamboo grove.
So that’s it! Let us know in the comments below if you have other recommendations for what to do in Arashiyama 🙂
P.S.: There are a few different train stations around Arashiyama, The simplest one to get to from Kyoto is Saga Arashiyama Station, but our starting station in this itinerary is Randen Arashiyama Station (pictured above), which is a lot nicer and closer to where all the sites are. Google Maps Japan lists this station simply as Arashiyama Station. There’s another station called Randen-Saga on the map, which is NOT the one we want!
Getting there from Kyoto: Take the JR San-In line from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station. It's a 20-minutes train ride, costing JPY 240 (~SGD 3) Alternatively, you can get on the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama Line, and get off at Arashiyama Station. The two stations are really just a few hundred meters apart.