Boasting the finest beauty of Kyoto’s outskirts, the area around Arashiyama and Sagano is mostly known for its sweeping greenery of the bamboo forest.
As part of Kyoto itself, Arashiyama and Sagano are home to plenty of old-established shrines covered in folktales and time.
Think about Arashiyama and Sagano as an Asian woman in her 40s – elegant and classic, with her traditional beauty standing the test of time!
Exploring Arashiyama and Sagano can be done in a day or two. The slow living pace here allows you to take a step back in time, reflect, and cleanse your mind. Being a mashup of mountains, rivers, and hills, Arashiyama and Sagano are some of the best places to get away from the hustle and bustle.
Without further ado, we’re here to give you a quick insight before planning your hideout to Arashiyama and Sagano. In this travel guide, you’ll find things to do, the best places to eat, a café with a view, and a transportation guide to and around those areas!
How to Get to Arashiyama from Kyoto?
You can take a train or a bus from Kyoto to Arashiyama.
By using the JR train, you’ll board the JR Sagano train to JR Arashiyama station within 15 minutes.
The other train you can get is the Sagano Scenic Railway. Start at the JR Umahori and switch to Kameoka Torokko station before taking the Sagano Torokko to arrive in Arashiyama!
Between the two, Sagano Scenic Railway is more favorable, given the gorgeous landscape along the Hozu River and the dramatic gorge by the edge of the cliff. Sagano scenic trains were once used as truck trains carrying luggage back in the day until they transformed into sightseeing trains as what you see today. The Sagano Scenic train is slow, enfolding the peaceful and beautiful sights of Kyoto’s outskirts.
If you’d rather take a bus, board Kyoto City Bus No. 28 and get off at Arashiyama-Tenryuji-mae!
9 Coolest Things to Do around Arashiyama & Sagano
Take A Stroll and Hear the Winds Whisper at Sagano Bamboo Forest
Walking into the serene bamboo forest reminds us so much of the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”. This is not something you see at most other places, and that’s why the distinctive tranquility it delivers is totally on point.
The only downside to this is how crowded it is (sometimes!). You’ll see cameras flashing everywhere with couples trying to get their wedding photoshoot done. So watch out for the space!
There’s one thing you cannot experience only by seeing the photos though! The sound coming out of the wind as it blows amongst the bamboo is truly amazing!
While the space can be packed sometimes (given how narrow it is), the classic and surreal whistle of the wind can surely compensate!
Don’t forget to pay attention to the railing on the sides of the road! They are made out of old, dry, and fallen parts of the bamboo! How cool!
Pop into Nonomiya Jinja for a Sense of Seclusion
Don’t let the negative reviews from Tripadvisors hold you back in doubt. If you’re a nature enthusiast, Nonomiya Jinja won’t disappoint! Go up a few steps and you’ll see a crimson-colored shrine with lovely sun-kissed greenery.
Nonomiya Jinja is about five minutes walking from the bamboo forest. They say the shrine was where unmarried imperial princesses stopped by to purify themselves for a year before taking up their duties at the Ise Grand Shrine. Even today, there are lots of locals flocking to this tiny shrine praying for the best blessings on their love life or marriage. And we do believe this is a nice way to understand a little more about Japanese culture.
Discover the World Heritage Site of Tenryu-ji Temple
This one is way more popular compared to Nonomiya Jinja. Walk to the end of the bamboo forest and Tenryu-ji Temple should be right there. We loved walking around the pond and garden, which we believe to be more beautiful when they are flanked with delightful cherry blossoms when spring comes around. If you get to the summit of a hill, the view of the cherry blossom is even more impeccable.
The garden and its lush greenery is also the height of Tenryu-ji Temple. You will want to spend much of your time strolling around the garden and seeking the views after paying a short visit to the temple.
See the Moss Blanketing the Grounds of Gioji Temple
Here comes another temple we’d love you to see! The surrounding garden seems as if it’s completely blended into nature, with a thick mossy blanket covering the entire ground.
A stroll around the garden later in the afternoon was lovely as we got to soak up the serene beauty and let the scent, the sound, and the color erase all the stress away. The main hall of the temple has thatched roofs with a round window overlooking the garden out there.
Stop by Jojakko-ji Temple in Autumn
Jojakko-ji Temple in fall is beyond imagination! Imagine walking up the stone stairway as the fall foliage competes for your attention! The mild sunlight piercing through the leaves made the colors pop even more.
Soak in the View from the Top of Okochi Sanso Villa
The height of our visit to Okochi Sanso Villa came from the awe-inspiring view of Mount Hiei from the garden. The porch from the top of the garden makes a great rest stop after all those walking. Get some comfy shoes ready and leave your heels alone! Don’t ever think about putting on those stilettos and walking this steep stoned path, or you’ll end up hurting your feet at the end of the day.
Cross the Togetsu-kyo Bridge
We came across the bridge as part of the walk. Standing by Togetsu-kyo Bridge will give you a perfect photo-op with the burbling water of the Katsura River flowing underneath!
When spring sweeps through the area, cherry blossoms get together into clouds, swathing two banks of the river into a sweeping wraparound vista.
Decompress and Unplug at Kameyama Park
12 minutes westbound from the bridge is Kameyama Park. It’s heavily forested and has a mild river flowing at its heart.
One of our favorite spots to stop by to rest our cores and get some shots for Instagram is right at the bank. Pick somewhere with a shade when the autumn leaves flank from above!
Max Out Your Credit Card at Arashiyama Shopping Street
Once you’re done with all the photos and nature, make some space in your itinerary for a walk along the bustling street of Arashiyama and max out your credit card!
Jokes aside, the street is full of fun, stretching all the way through the streets of Tenryu Temple, Randen Arashiyama Station, and Togetsu Bridge. From food spots, matcha stores, restaurants, and souvenir shops, you name it! If you’re here for retail therapy, two good hours here sound like a plan!
5 Best Dishes in Arashiyama to Delight Your Taste Buds
Sashimi and Rice at Taisho HANANA
This traditional sashimi store is north of Arashiyama Shopping Street. We had the Sea Bream Rice and it was so terrific that we couldn’t help waiting for the second helping! We’d advise you to go early or late to avoid a very long noon lunch queue.
Tofu and Rice at Saga-Tofu Ine
There are two branches in the city and the one we went to is right next door to Tenryu-ji Temple. They serve up delicious tofu and rice dishes, with vegan options available.
We like how the tofu is cooked and presented in so many brilliant ways that completely change the way you think about it as a boring food.
One of our favorite things to eat here was Yuba (or tofu skin). It’s more like an add-in ingredient to some of the dishes like Saga Gozen or Arashiyama Gozen. Yuba is like a sheet. It’s thin with a dominant soft texture.
Coffee at % Arabica Kyoto Arashiyama
Last but not least, this is a scenic coffee spot to get the day running and energized. The interior is brilliantly furnished with wooden and white walls. And the view over the sun-soaked river is beautiful.
The queue may be long at times, but don’t let it deter you from enjoying really good coffee with a view!
Sweets and Desserts at Oimatsu
Seasonal sweets and desserts are their claims to fame. Summer orange jelly and Yuki-shibori are some of the best offerings.
One of the most picture-worthy ones is the Sakura cake with red bean fillings, which is a seasonal signature during the cherry blossom season. We love the way it’s coming out on a blank plate with a little cake snuggled underneath a leaf. How lovely it is!
Japanese Fresh Eel at Unagi Hirokawa
Craving for some authentic Japanese fresh eel? Well, Unagi Hirokawa will have your taste buds in awe! The meat is grilled to perfection, tender, and light, with that homemade sauce ready to blow your mind! And when you pair those eels with rice – that’s the most beautiful thing for a rainy day!
Final Words: A One-Day Walking Itinerary to Inspire Your Wanderlust
Before making a farewell, go over this sample walking route around Arashiyama and Sagano so you can unfold all the best they have to offer as we did!
- Take a ride on the Sagano scenic railway to arrive in Arashiyama.
- Start with a leisure stroll along the bamboo forest.
- Stop by the world-renowned World Heritage Site Tenryu-ji Temple.
- Cross the Togetsu-kyo Bridge for a photo-op.
- Unwind at Kameyama Park
- Discover one of the less-traveled temples you like the most from our list above for a sense of escapism!
- Stop by % Arabica Kyoto Arashiyama and recharge with a glass of bitter juice!