Going ’round Arashiyama
Today, I’ll share with you about my visit to Arashiyama, which is located in West Kyoto. Arashiyama is a nationally-designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. In addition, the 天龍寺 (Tenryu-ji Temple) that is located in Arashiyama is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Arashiyama is the perfect place for a day trip.
There are a couple of ways to get to Arashiyama by train. If you’re coming from Kyoto, it is advisable to take the JR Sagano Line and stop at the Saga-Arashiyama Station. On the other hand, if you’re travelling from Osaka (like what I did!), then it is better to take the Hankyu Arashiyama Line instead. Stop at the Arashiyama Station (the terminus) and you will find yourself in Arashiyama.
Even though the main attractions in Arashiyama are located nearer to the Saga-Arashiyama Station, it took a shorter time when I travelled from Osaka. Arriving at the Hankyu Arashiyama Station was not that bad as it was located relatively near to the Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park.
Before you head up to the Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park, you will have to climb up a flight of stairs leading to a small shrine. There, you will see the red torii gates of the shrine where you can also draw an omikuji (a small slip of paper that depicts one’s fortune) for just 100 yen.
If you draw a bad prediction, it is suggested that you fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree or a wall of metal wires alongside other bad fortunes in the temple or shrine grounds. As the Japanese word for “pine tree” (松) sounds similar to “wait” (待つ), it is believed that the “bad luck” will wait by the tree instead of hanging onto the bearer.
Right beside the shrine is the Arashiyama Iwate Yama Monkey Park that you can enter by paying an admission fee of 550 yen. The opening hours vary based on the time of the year, so it will be best if you check them out before you visit the place. As the Monkey Park sits right at the peak of the hill, I would recommend that you dress yourself in proper footwear – no slippers or heels, but proper training gear. It is a rather steep climb so for people with knee/leg problems, do be careful!
However, the trek does prove to be a rewarding one. As you approach the top of the hill, you will be greeted by little monkeys that look really different from the ones that we see in Singapore. When you reach the peak, you will be treated to a bird’s eye view of Kyoto as well as a joyous sight of more monkeys playing with one another.
After visiting the Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park, I crossed the river and started to explore the main streets of Arashiyama. Here, you will come across various shops that sell traditional goods such as umbrellas, wooden utensils, green tea and souvenirs. You may also pause for a break at the popular cafe, % Arabica which boasts one of the best coffees in Arashiyama. I was also lucky enough to see something that I had never seen before – bread vans.
After lunch, I headed for the chikurin no michi, also known as the Bamboo Groves in English. I was rather disappointed as the widely photographed site was only located at the start of the road and the rest of it did not look quite as magnificent. It was also swarming with people (as it is a popular tourist spot), so if you’re an aspiring photographer, it would be great to head down to the Bamboo Groves early in the morning to take a good photograph of the Bamboo Groves.
If you walk to the end of the Bamboo Groves and head to your right, you will find yourself at the Tenryu-ji, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can pay a small entrance fee to enter the temple and take in the quaint scenery of the beautiful temple. Near the exit, you can also purchase omamoris, which are Japanese amulets said to provide various forms of protection or luck. Do note that once you leave the heritage site, you will not be able to re-enter using the old ticket that you came in with.
While one can definitely choose to take the bus in Kyoto to get around, I would suggest that you rent a bicycle or take a walk around Kyoto instead. Taking the bus proves to be a difficult task as buses are confusing and even my friends, who are very proficient in the language, would avoid taking them. Walking was my preferred choice in getting from one spot to another in Kyoto; even though it was tiring as my Steps Counter escalated, it was definitely rewarding. The scenery of Kyoto is extremely beautiful and it just makes you feel like you are transported into another time, of the olden days when you can relish in the slow pace of Kyoto.
Kyoto is a great spot that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, especially adults who want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy the scenery and the fresh air. Arashiyama may be slightly inconvenient but it was definitely worth it to have spent a day there when I was in Japan earlier this year!