One day in Arashiyama, Japan Review
I’d visited Arashiyama before but didn’t get to explore the area properly because I went when everything was closed and the sky was darkening, so I was looking forward to seeing the place during normal tourist hours on a beautiful crisp Wednesday morning.
First thing I noticed? This place was really popular for wedding photos.
They were just hanging around meters apart…
Staring dramatically downwards at the dirt…
Touching each other’s butts…
Laughing so gosh darn naturally…
I was almost tripping over these couples!
I could see why this was a popular area though as the scenery was remarkable with greenery, hills and water surrounding you and the view of the beautiful Togetsukyo Bridge.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
We walked from Hankyu Arashiyama station towards the bamboo forest, pausing by Randen Arashiyama station to take snaps of the kimono pillars placed throughout the station. There was a path of colourful material passing the pond of the dragon and a foot spa.
It was certainly a different experience from the famous bamboo forest.
There were a few quieter spots but nowhere fully remote…
Nothing will stop them
The only photos I took without people in it were close ups, extremely cropped or pointed towards the sky and I definitely had a much more sedate time during my last visit. The bamboo forest was very pretty, but definitely missing the calming vibe you would expect from years of Japanese advertisements.
I had a lot of plans for Arashiyama but ended up skipping out on Tenryuji temple because we had officially templed out by the second week of our trip. I chose to try peering around the entrance area, but this was the kind of temple that could afford a very long pathway to its main entrance and I saw only grass and people. We also ultimately missed out on the monkey park as there was no time by the end of the day.
We opted to go to a top item on my list instead: the Okochi-Sanso Villa which had belonged to the actor Okochi Denjiro. It combined two of my favourite things in the world: the chance to nose around someone else’s property and the promise of snacks.
We stumped up the hefty 1,000.00 JPY / 6.36 GBP entrance fee and wandered inside. In reality this was very little but I was spoilt by Japan’s low entrance fees to everything by then (bar Naoshima Island).
A beautiful viewpoint…
Before winding up outside the tea house.
At the tea house we collected our ration of green tea and a small snack that came with our ticket.
We then had a look at what I can only describe as a shrine to Okochi Sanso and his most famous movie roles. This was definitely the emptiest part of the whole area, but it was interesting to see just how many roles there were in 20th century Japan for one eyed samurais.
It was also a bit odd to see images of Sanso in all his one eyed glory next to ones of him in his neat suit and glasses.
The high entrance fee definitely made the experience better as we were able to enjoy the whole area in peace when in comparison to the fully packed bamboo grove. There were minimal people and this really added to the experience when we were in the viewpoint spots surrounded by mountains or enjoying our tea and snack in the tea-house.
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
The last spot we visited was the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple, famous for its statues, which was quite out of the way from the popular Arashiyama sights. I chose to combine the temple with walking through the preserved street of Saga Toriimoto which sounded more significant than it was in reality. I was tricked by the name and google images, but Saga Toriimoto was actually very compact and quiet with the only viewpoint being a red gate. It was perfectly pleasant if you didn’t have the expectations that I did; it also contained possibly the cheapest vending machine in Japan.
Thankfully Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple was much more impressive and true to advertisements than Saga Toriimoto. The entrance fee was a very reasonable 300.00 JPY / 1.91 GBP and due to its remote location there were no crowds and the quiet temple atmosphere was preserved.
The shrine in its current location was built in 1922 and its famous statues were a newer addition donated in the 80s and 90s. There were over 1000 statues each with its own whimsical style as they were all carved by different people.
It was a very charming and photogenic shrine and I took far too many shots of the statues.
We ended the day back in the main street towards the station area. Arashiyama was very pretty and, outside of the busy tourist areas, had a chilled atmosphere with its natural surroundings. The bamboo forest and main streets may be crowded but they are worth visiting at least once and both the Okochi-Sanso Villa and Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple offer a nice moment of calm. Arashiyama is a great place to visit if you are looking for something a bit different in Kyoto.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove/嵯峨野 竹林の小径
Address: Sagatenryuji Tateishicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8375, Japan/〒616-8375 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺立石町
Opening hours: No closing hours
Address: 8 Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8394, Japan/〒616-8394 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨小倉山田淵山町８
Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
Cost: Adults 1,000.00 JPY / 6.36 GBP , Children 500.00 JPY / 3.18 GBP
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
Address: 2-5 Sagatoriimoto Fukatanicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8439, Japan/〒616-8439 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨鳥居本深谷町２−5
Opening hours: 08:00 – 17:00
Cost: 300.00 JPY / 1.91 GBP (Under 15 free)