With its vast nature including a bamboo grove, the Oi River which you can go sailing on, and a monkey park, Arashiyama is hands down one of the most popular day trips from Kyoto City. Though this area attracts a large number of tourists each year, it’s easy to avoid them by taking side trails off the bamboo grove trail. I was able to find complete bliss in solitude while hiking to several areas and listening to my favorite music. I originally traveled here in 2018, but came back to try the delicious chilled soba noodles at a famous restaurant last year. In this article I will be writing about the highlights of my Arashiyama hiking adventure and hopefully will inspire more people to visit!
Floating Down the Oi River
When you get off at Arashiyama Station, one of the first things you’ll notice is the gently flowing Oi river. There are several shacks where you can rent boats and go on tours down the river and into the forested area. This is one of the best ways to explore Arashiyama, so I opted for a private boat tour for 3000 yen. Group tours are also available for a lower price. The wooden boat has padded seats so its quite comfortable, and you can see beautiful scenes from floating down the river that you can’t see on foot!
While we were sailing a food boat (food truck but in boat form) sailed up to us and offered to cook me something. I decided I wanted grilled squid and they made it right in front of me. It was truly and amazing experience! I’ve explored a floating village in Cambodia before which was quite large, but this river is much smaller and more relaxed. If you love boating then there are a lot of amazing places in Asia that are worth checking out. I aim to explore as many as I can.
I didn’t have the best camera on me at the time, but here is some footage of me sailing down the river on a wooden boat. It was a pleasant trip that only takes about 30 mins:
Sunset at the Kimono Forest
If you come to Arashiyama, then you definitely need to stay and watch the sun set slowly on the mountains before you leave. First the sky will flash to a bright gradient of red, orange, and yellow, then fade to a gentle magenta and pink hue. Afterwards there is a garden of kimono-patterned pillars near Randen Arashiyama Station that becomes illuminated at night. I had a fantastic time walking through here and taking pictures—it felt as if I had slipped into another world with all of the colors! These memories still burn very bright in my mind today.
Bamboo Forest and Monkey Mountain
The main tourist attraction of Arashiyama is the bamboo forest which is about a 10 min walk from the station. The massive stalks of bamboo that surround you are truly astounding. Back in America I had never seen anything like this before, so I was very impressed by this area. There are normally a lot of tourists on the main path, but you can find paths that lead into the mountains like the one pictured on the right to avoid them. If you aim your camera towards the sunlight that is partially blocked by the bamboo stalks you can get some really nice pictures here.
When I hiked up the path shown above, I spotted a very interesting building structure from afar and zoomed into it. It looks like either a shack with clothes hung out to dry or small shrine. Climbing to that area seems like quite a feat because it is not connected to the main path of Arashiyama. “Who lives here?” I wondered 2 years ago, and I still think about it to this very day:
After exploring the paths around the bamboo forest which really don’t take that much time to climb, I recommend checking out the Monkey Park atop a small mountain called Iwatayama. The climb takes about 10-15 mins and you can see a nice view of Kyoto from the top as well as several enthusiastic monkeys. Be sure not to make direct eye contact with them as they can be quite aggressive! However, a barrier will protect you from being attacked my them.
Compared to the monkeys in Thailand, the ones in Kyoto are actually quite nice. However, if you are in Japan for a long time and are able to go to Hokkaido, the Monkey Park in Hakodate is actually much more fun to see. You can watch them bathe in a hotspring and have a clearer view of them with less tourists around you.
Chilled Soba Noodles at Tempura Matsu
While searching for aesthetic food in Kyoto (which is not that difficult to find), I stumbled upon a tempura restaurant that serves soba noodles in a one-of-a-kind bowl made out of ice. As far as I know, no other restaurant besides Tempura Matsu serves soba quite like this. The egg topping mixed with soy sauce gives it an amazing taste. It is best eaten in the summer because it will cool you down. Amazingly even in the warm temperature the ice bowl will hardly melt. I was impressed with the craftsmanship of this dish:
Since I had a long journey here, I decided to reward myself with the course meal that was around 12,000 yen at the time. This is quite expensive, but I believe you are able to order individual items off the menu if you request them. From my experience, it was well worth the price. Carefully prepared seafood, soup, rice, vegetables, soba, and dessert were served to me in this course. Vegetarian options are available as well.
Getting to Arashiyama
Kyoto Station take Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. This takes about 15 mins and costs only 240 yen making it an extremely cheap trip.
Please note that accommodations here are quite popular, so you might want to book 2 months in advance if you want to stay in a nice onsen resort.
If you are a solo traveler or are on a budget, I recommend day tripping here from Kyoto City since accommodations there are cheaper. If you want to use a day hotspring in Arashiyama, consider trying Fufunoyu. It is only 1000 yen to enter and has a lovely outdoor hotspring that you can use.
I will be writing more about my adventures in Kyoto and accommodation options in my next few posts. Please stay tuned for more info~