It’s no secret that Japan is my favourite countries to visit – I’ve visited three times and am already thinking about my next holiday! One of my favourite cities there is Kyoto, an absolutely spectacular place that should be at the top of any itinerary to Japan. While there are many, many beautiful places to explore in Kyoto, the district of Arashiyama is my favourite – it is truly the personification of what you think of when you hear the word ‘Japan.’ Towering bamboo groves, ancient houses, tea ceremonies, temples, misty mountains…it’s all here, and it’s magnificent. Arashiyama refers to a district on the western outskirts of Kyoto, an easy 15 minute train journey from Kyoto station on the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama station. From Saga-Arashiyama station, central Arashiyama is a 5-10 minute walk.
Arashiyama is particularly lovely (and popular) during the cherry blossom (spring) and fall colour (autumn) seasons. I myself have been there in both autumn and winter, and can definitely attest to the fact that it is truly striking during autumn, the brilliant autumnal colours making for a really beautiful setting amongst the temples, of which there are quite a few. The temples are scattered throughout this district, the most famous being Tenryuji, Daikakuji, and Jojakkoji.
The Togetsukyo Bridge is Arashiyama's well known, central landmark. Many small shops, restaurants and other attractions are found nearby, including Tenryuji Temple, the bamboo groves and boats that are available for rent on the river. The bridge looks particularly beautiful in combination with the forested mountainside in the background. A riverside park with dozens of cherry trees is located just adjacent to the bridge.
Despite the many incredible sights in Arashiyama, for me it is all about the bamboo groves. Walking through the groves truly feels like something out of a fairy tale (or The House Of Flying Daggers): enormous green bamboo swaying gently in the breeze, a peaceful knocking sound each time they brush against each other; dimly lit and utterly tranquil…if you can ignore the crowds of people who are enjoying the serenity with you.
Another amazing site is Okochi Sanso Villa, located at the end of one of the main bamboo grove path. This is the former villa of the popular Japanese actor Okochi Denjiro, and consists of several exquisite gardens and buildings, including living quarters, tea houses and gates. The buildings can only be viewed from the outside. Admission (1,000 yen) includes matcha green tea with a snack, and it is definitely worth the admission fee.
If you are planning a visit to Kyoto, Arashiyama should unquestionably be at the top of your list of places to visit – I promise it won’t disappoint.