Arashiyama (嵐山)

Saturday, 10 February 2018



Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto surrounded by mountains, there's a good reason why Arashiyama (嵐山) is so popular amongst locals and tourists alike. Not only is it a rest and relaxation spot for residents, it's an absolute a gem in itself because it has some of the best views the city has to offer. If you're only in Kyoto for only a few days, I highly recommend that you visit Arashiyama—even for half a day. While the area is more rural than its eastern counterpart, it boasts stunning views filled with temples, shrines, and of course, the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (嵐山竹林).



Whether you travel to Arashiyama by train, subway or bus, it'll take you at least 30 minutes to get there (unless you live near the area, of course). We caught the JR train San-In Line (山陰本線) and it took us a good 40 minutes to arrive at Saga-Arashiyama Station (嵯峨嵐山駅).



As we made our way to the entrance to our first stop at Arashiyama, the Bamboo Grove, we could see that was already scrambling with people. But despite the traffic, wherever we walked in the grove, the atmosphere was always serene and calm. Most people would simply go about their business—mostly taking photos—and admiring the magnificent sight before them. I don't think I can even describe how amazing it was to be standing amongst the greenery of thousands of bamboos grown to its full height. It was truly an incredible sight. While the bamboos are sprawled across a short 500 metre path, it's a forest like no other.





Someone please explain to me why pedestrians, rickshaws, and even cars, share the path bamboo grove? If you really want to experience the beauty of the bamboo groves close up, getting on your feet is your best bet. #imeanwhy #somanylazyppl





It's free to walk through the bamboo grove and we spent about 45 minutes there. After that, we went to visit Tenryuji Temple (天龍寺), the most important temple in Arashiyama and among some of the most important Zen temples in Kyoto. Entry costs ¥500, and an additional ¥300 for entrance into the temple buildings.











We only spent about 40 minutes at the temple, and as beautiful as the foliage, plants and flowers were in the garden, I loved how there was seats outside the main hall or Hojo (方丈) to allow people to admire and appreciate the scenery of the Sogen Pond Garden (曹源池庭園). Look at that view and the mountains in the background!



After we left the temple, we went to explore the Saga-Arashiyama Area Shopping Street before visiting our next stop. Lined with tea houses, shops and restaurants, the shopping street is one of the main streets in Arashiyama and is probably the nicest shopping streets I've been to in Japan. Not because it's particularly good for shopping (we didn't much anything except food), but because it's less commercialised and wasn't too crowded like the streets of Higashiyama District (東山区).



We thought we'd just eat snacks along the way rather than a proper hot meal for lunch. Therefore, one of the first things we ate in Arashiyama was a soy milk doughnut—and then realising that it wasn't so good like the ones we had at Nishiki Market (錦市場)—as well an ice cream cone each. Sharon got a one cherry blossom flavoured one and I got soy milk one, and we finished all of it!







Our third and final stop was Togetsukyo Bridge (渡月橋), another iconic landmark of Arashiyama often featured in many films, magazines and travel guides. The wooden bridge spans 155 metres over Katsura River (桂川) and it's name, Togetusukyo Bridge literally translates to "moon crossing bridge". By then, it was probably the hottest we felt (weather-wise) during the whole time we were in Japan.







Walking back towards the station again, we decided to have some savory dishes at a food stall. We ordered some tofu sashimi, udon, and a plate of gyoza. Overall, the food was average. The tofu sashimi was too milky and lacked that "clean" soy bean taste. The udon was okay, but I had expected it the noodles come with soup, and not with soy sauce which was too salty for my liking.





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