According to the Japan National Tourism Organisation, “the best things in Kyoto are reserved for those willing to walk”. And a lot of walking we did. Arashiyama is a gorgeous district west of the city and many Kyotoites make annual excursions here to view the cherry blossoms in spring and maple trees in their fall colours. Home of the “Heavenly Dragon” Tenryū-ji Temple (one of Kyoto’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites), the Katsura River and the Togetsu-kyo Bridge (“Moon Crossing Bridge”), Arashiyama makes for a popular tourist destination surrounded by beautiful mountains, bamboo groves and stunning natural scenery.
Tenryū-ji is the largest and most impressive temple found in Arashiyama. It is widely considered one of Kyoto’s greatest Zen temples. The temple was founded in 1339 during the Muromachi Period (1338-1753). Due to destruction by fire, Tenryū-ji has had all of its buildings reconstructed, however its Zen garden has been around since the 14th century. You can access the garden for ¥500 and pay an extra ¥100 to enter the buildings themselves.
Located in Arashiyama’s bamboo forest, the Nonomiya Shrine is a Shinto shrine supposedly popular for marriage. It is mentioned in the 11th century Japanese literary classic “The Tale of Genji”. Here, many people write their prayers and wishes on little wooden enmusubi ema. Enmusubi is a term that means “to join together” and is used to describe matchmaking charms.
The Togetsukyo Bridge (“Moon Crossing Bridge”) is one of Arashiyama’s most iconic landmarks. Built during the Heian Period (794-1185) and reconstructed in the 1930s, the bridge is used to cross the shallow, slow-flowing Katsura River. It is graced with superb views of the forested mountainside and is located near a number of small shops and charming restaurants.
Koto Kiki Chaya (琴きき茶屋)
We had lunch at Koto Kiki Chaya. Known for their special additive-free sakura mochi, they also offer a number of affordable noodle dishes and rice sets. I had a large bowl of udon noodles with delightfully crunchy mountain vegetables and James had their katsu curry rice set.
Horin-ji Temple (Saga Kokuzo)
Horin-ji Temple is tucked away in the forested mountains and fairly removed from the main touristy areas of Arashiyama. Located up a set of stairs, its quiet and peaceful location makes it an absolute joy to savour. There is an amazing lookout from the edge of the mountain that offers spectacular views of the town below. In my opinion, one of the best finds in Arashiyama.