Lesser Known Activities at Arashiyama
Arashiyama is immensely popular with tourists and thought of fondly by Kyoto-ites. If you ever find yourself living in Kyoto, it’s a sure bet that after everything else (the temple of the golden pavilion, Kiyo Mizu Dera and the philosophers path to name a few) has become a little tired, Arashiyama will still warmly call to you. But whilst the bamboo grove and the monkey park are of course great and must see destinations, there is definitely more to this town. For example, why not try hiking and visiting a temple in Arashiyama?
Why Not Take a Hike?
One of the lesser known and more interesting hiking paths in Kyoto is from Hozukyo station to the Sagano temple area. The temple itself is famous for housing a statue of Buddha and one who has attained enlightenment. Additionally, the graveyard there holds the remains of emperors and aristocrats. You can still enjoy the temple and others around it from an easier and more direct approach by train and bus, but the hike detailed in this article is very beautiful in all of Japan’s seasons. Make sure you take adequate lighting, food and water whenever you go hiking. For this particular hike, water proof boots, a towel and change of socks might be useful, as you’ll get pretty close to the water at times.
How to Get There
Start by taking the train from Kyoto station to Hozukyo station. The trip takes around 20 minutes and costs 240 yen.
Once you arrive at the station, head to the exit and take a right, up through the carpark and along the winding road. This part of the walk is a little troublesome and perhaps dangerous because we are sharing the road with the cars, so please take it slowly and carefully! At the first crossroad after the bridge, take another right turn. Look out to the right over the river and behold Hozukyo station from its better angle.
Keep walking along the road and you will pass an old train station. If you’re hiking Arashiyama in winter, you might think it’s abandoned but it actually runs during the spring as a Kyoto tourist/sightseeing line. At the first crossroad, take the small path which leads off the road, down to the river, and from here we can start our trek.
Hiking to Nison-in Temple
Avoiding the parts where the water is deep and current is strong, it’s actually a wonderful walk to do in summer because you can so easily and safely stick our feet in the water! In the autumn you can see wonderful foliage, and in the spring you’ll see the snow falling from the tress. The path itself varies between an actual path and having to fumble across the rocks along the river side, so take care not to trip over.
Just a little further ahead you will come across a nice town by the river. There isn’t really much there besides people’s houses, but it’s picturesque and if you arrive around lunchtime people are usually picnicking around a fire. In these parts of Japan, which are a bit far from the usual tourist hotspots, you being there is somewhat interesting, so you might be welcome for a little conversation or to warm your hands by the fire.
After leaving the town and continuing along the river, the path becomes a little more built up and easier to walk. Eventually you will come across a tunnel-like clearing through the trees, reminiscent of the bamboo grove. Before entering, take a look up and ahead, and keep that spot in mind for later.
The hiking path continues for a while, until we reach an area of interesting private bridges which lead to either expensive hotels or restaurants; to be honest, I’m not exactly sure. After the bridges, you will see an extensive set of steps on your left, going up and away from the river.
You Made It! Now Relax and Enjoy Nison-in Temple
Welcome to Nison-in temple. The entrance fee is 500 yen, but the complex is quite large, so take your time enjoying all of it. Up in the very top left corner, you can look out over the valley. You might even recognise the road we took earlier! Did you imagine there was actually a temple up there? This is a nice view and incidentally where I ate my lunch.
From there you can either check out the other two famous temples in the area, Gioji and Jojakkoji, walk back the way we came to Hozukyo station, or take the quick and usual route back to JR Saga Arashiyama, then back to Kyoto. Enjoy hiking in Arashiyama!
Price: 500 yen
Price: 500 yen
Hours: 9:00~17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Price: 300 yen