Arashiyama Forest Park and its Many Attractions
Arashiyama is one of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto, and for very good reasons. It is truly a beautiful, clean and nostalgic place to visit. If you came to Kyoto to find the romantic Japan of the past, Arashiyama should definitely be on your to-do list. There are many things to be done in Arashiyama including visiting the Bamboo grove, the Nisonin and Gioji temples, feeding monkeys at Iwatayama Monkey Park, the Sagano scenic railway, the gardens in the Tenryuji Temple and Daikakuji Temple.
Your Very Own Itinerary: An Arashiyama Day Trip
I want to show you a good first time trip to Arashiyama, so let’s go to Tenryuji Temple gardens, then take a stroll through the bamboo grove, have some lunch, and then head up to the Monkey Park.
How to Get to Arashiyama
To access Arashiyama, simply take a train the JR Sagano line for Kameoka from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama. The trip takes about 15 minutes and only costs 240 yen. Follow the map south from the station and around to the entrance of Tenryuji Temple. Entrance to the grounds costs 500 yen, and another 100 to enter the building itself.
Tenryuji Temple, a world heritage site, was first built in 1339. However the current structures are mostly re-creations from the late 18th century, early 19th century (Meiji period). The garden is easily the most impressive part, and it was designed by the famous Muso Soseki. The temple has an interesting history, so please read the information scattered about and try to see the inside as well as the outside if you want to get it all.
The most interesting thing about Japanese gardens is that they offer something different from every angle. It’s good to spend a great deal of time looking at all the angles and seeing what the designer was framing that angle around. The mountains in the background really complement the garden.
The rest of the temples gardens include many trees and flowers, with the species names included. A larger Sakura cherry blossom tree is here for the spring, and many Momiji red autumn leaf trees for the autumn. You can also try your skill throwing coins onto a frog statue for a good blessing. It’s best to use fives, so try a 5 yen or 50 yen coin!
The Bamboo Grove
After reaching the rear of the temple we exit right into the mouth of the famous bamboo grove. The first thing you might notice is just how dim it is. No, you didn’t spend the whole day in Tenryuji Temple, it’s just the effect of the very long bamboo trees.
In the bamboo forest you might see a train go past; this is the Sagano Scenic Train. The train runs along the Hozu River and costs 620 yen one way. It’s a really nice ride, and you can stick your head out the window and let the inner child out (well, that’s what I did). After enjoying the Bamboo forest, it might be a nice time to have some lunch! Let’s head back south toward the Togetsukyo Bridge. Before the bridge you will find some nice restaurants and cafés.
The Togetsukyo Bridge was originally built in the Heian period, and lets you walk across to an island filled with Cherry blossom trees. Expect big crowds of people here during the season. The view of the mountains from the bridge are really fantastic too, so it can be enjoyed outside the cherry blossom season too.
Iwatayama Monkey Park
Continuing in the same direction of the cherry blossoms island, we soon find the entrance to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. The entrance fee is 550 yen, and requires walking up a big hill, so be prepared for that if you have some issue with hills.
The path up through the Monkey Park isn’t too steep, and a few places offer nice views of the scenery. The path itself is very simple to follow, so just keep walking! Are you wondering where the monkeys are? Just as you start thinking this, you are probably near the top… and you might get surprised by one sitting silently to your side, or even following you up the mountain!
See the Famous Monkeys at Arashiyama
Monkeys! Monkeys! Monkeys! Once you reach the top you will see more monkeys than you were expecting! The monkeys have a strong hierarchy, so have a look and see if you can find the leader. Once you have made your guess, try asking the keeper who the boss is and see if you’re right! The keeper’s job is half Monkey keeper half tourist guide, so he will probably understand your English.
We can even feed the monkeys! But animals will be animals, and the cheeky monkey lives up to his name. In order to feed the monkeys, we need to do so from the security of inside the cage. Enter the building and you can buy feed from the staff. The Monkeys will be grateful for your treats! Ita-da-ki-masu~
Once you have had enough fun with the monkeys, you can either enjoy the views from the mountain over Kyoto, or head back down the mountain. I hope you enjoy Arashiyama!
April to September: 8:30 to 17:30
October to March: 8:30 to 17:00
Price: 500 yen entrance to gardens. +100 yen entrance to temple buildings
Monkey Park Iwatayama
Mid-March to September: 9:00 to 16:30
October to early March: 9:00 to 16:00
Price: 550 yen