We hadn’t actually planned to go to Kyoto at all – both Y and I had already been to Kiyomizu, but after perusing the guide, it seemed like the most interesting place to go, so that’s we headed. We opted for the slightly more offbeat places.
After some pondering, we headed to Arashiyama ?? to check out their famous bamboo forest. As all our days in Osaka, it was exceptionally HOT. We took quite awhile to get there, having to take the subway and train to Kyoto, and then change another train to get to Arashiyama on the western outskirts of Kyoto.
Torokko Train Station
Right away we were charmed with the little Torokko Saga station right next door. The Romantic Train is a quaint little steam train which the books recommend as a nice way to see Arashiyama. Unfortunately the rides had been cancelled due to weather (not because it was too hot) so we didn’t have a chance to take it. The popular thing is to take the train one way and then take a boat ride down the Hozu River back.
The main stuff in Arashiyama is about 10-15mins walk away from the train station. First thing we do is head into the bamboo forest for a walk. It is quite a sight – super tall bamboo growing so close together that while it’s quite shady, hardly a breeze comes through.
Nonomiya Shrine is a little shrine in the middle of the bamboo forest. Quite a lot of people were milling around there. Nothing particularly unusual about it though. You can read a little more about it here.
Walking further along the bamboo forest path brought us to the north entrance of Tenryuji temple, one of the most important Rinzai or Zen temples in Japan. There are some pretty nice gardens back here, which I imagine would be absolutely beautiful in Sprin/Autumn as well as being much more pleasant to walk in. We sat down to admire the place a little while catching our breath.
We walked past several buildings where visitors were walking inside the building. It was a little bewildering at first because there didn’t seem to be a way up from where we were. We did walk ourselves to the main hall where Sogen Garden was, and suddenly the shaded pathways opened up into this:
Lovely scenery around the Sogen Lake; there was also a bit of a zen garden thing going on (see the lines in the background of the raked pebbles). We were pretty overheated by this time though, and after a short while tried to find the main entrance so we could get to the inside of the hall where the other visitors were lazing in the shade.
Turns out that there’s a Main Hall entrance if you enter along the main road (if we hadn’t turned into the bamboo forest path and continued down that main road, we would have ended up here), and there you have the choice of entering either the indoor or outdoor sections. We headed indoor, took off our shoes and padded our way back to the Sogen Garden, only this time we could sit down on the various tatami mats in the indoor halls.
We spent a lot of time here enjoying the view and just hiding from the midday heat. I even did up a very rough sketch:
You can walk quite extensively in the ‘indoor’ area, which actually includes covered walkways from building to building, which gives you a chance to enjoy the garden view while checking out the various buildings while in the shade.
After exiting we had lunch in a random restaurant, before heading towards the Hozu river (also known as the Oi river) to check it out. There were lots of people down by the river banks cooling off in the shade or splashing in the shallow banks, so that’s where we went.
The bridge links to a little island called Arashiyama park, and then leads towards more shrines. We’re a little shrined-out after Tenryuji so we opt not to walk there. Perhaps if we cycled, it would be a lot more accessible! We do take a walk across the bridge to admire the view and walk back again.
We headed back to the station, popping into various shops along the way. I did pick up some shop stuff here (stay tuned!) and we headed off to our next destination… Overall, I’d suggest cycling if you’re in the area, makes it easier to get to the slightly further off spots – there are cycling rental areas just behind the train station which is quite convenient.
Getting to Arashiyama
Arashiyama is on the western outskirts of Kyoto. From Osaka, you need to take a train on the JR-line from Umeda to Kyoto main station. It takes about half an hour by the express train and costs 540 yen.
Then at Kyoto you transfer to the JR-Sannin (or Sagano) line to Saga Arashiyama station, which takes about 10 minutes by the normal line (don’t take the express you might shoot pass your station!) and costs 230 yen.
There’s a tourist information centre in the Kyoto main train station that closes at 7pm, which is quite helpful in figuring out where to go in Kyoto. Look out for the sheet of paper in English that tells you what the various activities/festivals are happening in Kyoto.
Tenryuji is about 10-15 mins away from the JR train station. Head towards the Togetsukyo Bridge area – The main entrance is along that main road there and hard to miss. Opening hours are from 8.30am to 5.30pm or 5pm depending on the month. Tickets cost 600 yen for both the grounds and the indoor halls.
You can also enter via the North entrance which is accessible via the Bamboo Grove. Here you can only buy tickets for the grounds which costs 500 yen, but you can top up 100 yen when you reach the main entrance to gain access into the indoor halls.