On this trip to Osaka, Y and I decided to day trip outside of Osaka where we were based, and head up towards Kyoto to check out some other highlights besides the Kiyomizu Temple which we had both seen before. We ended up heading to Arashiyama 嵐山, famous for its picturesque bamboo forest to see that and what other sights we could find along the way.
As with all our days in Osaka thus far, it was exceptionally HOT. It was a bit of a journey getting to Arashiyama from Osaka – first we had to take the subway and train to Kyoto, and then change to another train to the western outskirts of Kyoto where we finally stopped at Arashiyama.
Saga no Torokko / Saga Scenic Railway
We were charmed right away with the little Saga Scenic Railway Station just next door to the actual train station. The Sagano Torokko or Saga Romantic Train is a quaint little steam train that the guidebooks recommend as a nice way to see Arashiyama – The popular thing is to take the train one way and then take a boat ride down the Hozu River back. Unfortunately the rides had been cancelled that day due to weather so we couldn’t ride it.
Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves are about 10-15mins walk away from the train station. It is quite a sight – super tall bamboo growing so close together that it’s quite shady, and hardly any breeze comes through so while it looks super pretty in photos, it is also extremely warm and muggy in June.
Nonomiya Shrine is a little shrine in the middle of the bamboo forest. Quite a lot of people were milling around there but I didn’t see anything particularly unusual about it. 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 Spring and Autumn, as well as being much more pleasant to walk in compared to the muggy summer heat.
It was a little bewildering at first because we couldn’t find the entrance until we walked to the main hall where Sogen Garden was, and suddenly the shaded pathways opened up into this beautiful lake.
Lovely scenery around the Sogenchi or Sogen Lake where there was also a bit of a zen garden thing going on. We were pretty overheated by this time though, and after a short went to look for 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, and there you have the choice of entering either the indoor or outdoor sections. Feeling overheated, 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 nice shady 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 of the view.
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 Tenryuji, we had lunch in a random restaurant, before heading towards the Hozu river (also known as the Oi river). There were lots of people down by the river banks cooling off in the shade or splashing along 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 were a little ‘shrined-out’ after Tenryuji so we opted not to walk there. I think cycling might have been a nice option though – there were a number of cycling rentals near the train station. We did take a walk across the bridge to admire the view and walked back again.
We headed back to the station, did a little bit of shopping before heading off towards Fushimi Inari Taisho.
Arashiyama Tourist Info
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.