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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience

Based on Japan National Tourism Organization's (JNTO) publication—Kyoto Walks, it says that, in Kyoto, the best surprises are reserved for those who are willing to walk. Among those recommended routes, it includes
  • Arashiyama Area best of Japan

On 11/29/2016, I have visited Arashiyama (嵐山) and mainly in Sagano Area.


Togetsukyo Bridge


The Togetsukyo Bridge (lit. "Moon Crossing Bridge") is Arashiyama's most iconic landmark. The bridge is notable for its views of cherry blossoms in a riverside park and autumn colors on the slopes of Arashiyama.

On the day of my visit, however, the autumn colors on the forested mountainside was not as brilliant as I hoped. Probably I was there one-to-two-weeks late for the peak autumn colors.

Sagano Area


The area north of the Togetsukyo Bridge (see above map; click to enlarge) is also known as Sagano, which encloses all points of interest described below.

Besides walking, another way to travel around the Sagano area is by rental bicycle, which are available for around 1000 yen near the train stations. Cycling through rural residential areas and past fields while traveling between temples can be a more relaxed and convenient way to enjoy the area.

However, on that day, I have chosen my favorite way of visit—walking. Based on the route I have taken, the points of interest are also illustrated in the same order.

Bamboo Forest


The walking paths that cut through the bamboo groves make for a nice walk or bicycle ride. To visit it, you should try to arrive early in the morning to beat the crowd.




Jojakkoji Temple (常寂光寺)


This mountainside temple is notable for its attractive buildings and gates. Maple trees and moss are located just beside the paths and stairs that lead across the temple grounds. From a number of spots, visitors can also enjoy views over Kyoto.




Gioji Temple (祇王寺)


On the way to Gioji Temple, I have run into an attractive pottery shop (see picture below) on the roadside.


Gioji Temple is very small and nestled deeper into the mountainside. It is known for its moss garden that is punctuated with tall maple trees. The temple's entrance gate and small main hall have thatched roofs. The latter has an attractive round window looking into the gardens.



Adashino Nenbutsu-ji (化野念仏寺)


Adashino Nenbutsuji is located at the end of the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street. The temple was founded in the early 9th century when the famous monk Kobo Daishi (弘法大師) placed stone statues for the souls of the dead here.

Today, the temple grounds are covered by hundreds of such stone statues. In the back of the temple, a short path leads through a bamboo forest which looks similar to the over-hyped Bamboo Forest while has a much smaller crowd.




Final Words


Adashino Nenbutsuji is the farthest location I have reached on that day. Before heading back to the train station, I have spotted an old-styled Japanese restaurant with a nice garden in the preserved town area (see photo below) and have enjoyed a nice meal over there.



On the return trip, I have seen some Japanese youngsters hooking up lanterns on the roadside to the power line. I guess Arashiyama should look more attractive with lit lanterns in the evening. However, at that moment, a huge crowd was already gathered around me and created a commotion. From the corner of my eye, I have found there was a snake of people walking through the Bamboo Forest. To replenish my peace of mind, the only idea in my mind then was walking as fast as possible to escape the crowd.

As you may have noticed, some points of interest in the Sagano area were skipped on that day:

References

  1. Kyoto Walks (JNTO)
  2. Arashiyama (嵐山) Full Day
  3. Arashiyama and Sagano
  4. Bamboo forest
  5. Benefits of Kansai Thru Pass (2 days / 3 days)
    • Discounts at Ryoanji Temple, Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama, etc.
  6. Arashiyama in Kyoto Tour! - Video Japan Guide (video)
  7. Taking a bus in Kyoto
  8. 20 Recommended Power Spots in Kyoto
  9. Monkey Park (video)
  10. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  11. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience
  12. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience
  13. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience
  14. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience
  15. Visting Uji (宇治) near Kyoto and Nara—Personal Experience
  16. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)
  17. Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area (Travel for a Purpose)

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