arashiyama: top sites and sights

arashiyama: top sites and sights

By Patricia Belyea

ARASHIYAMA JP  Number Five and counting. That's how many times I’ve visited the Arashiyama district on the outskirts of Kyoto. The biggest challenge of the day was deciding what to do with so many impressive sites and compelling activities. With Victoria in tow, an Arashiyama neophyte, I resolved to show her my favorite places.

Tenryuji Temple
We started with sprawling Tenryuji, a Zen Temple and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The expansive temple gardens, full of seasonal colors and built around a central lake, invited us to wander on its network of walking paths. In the main building, I once again appreciated the bold painting of Dharma right inside the entry, the pristine tatami rooms, and the cloud dragon that extends the length of a huge hall.

Monkey Park
A first for me! The promise of catching a glimpse of Japanese snow monkeys propelled Victoria and I up an endless incline in 77º F temperature. Uneven stones, steep stairs, and cracked concrete didn’t daunt us from our mission. At the top, we were rewarded with a sweeping view of Kyoto and the peaks that surround the city. Better yet, we finally got to see the red-faced, red-butted monkeys up-close. (Please stay 3 meters away, says the sign.) Along with hordes of other monkey-seekers, Victoria and I headed into a cage-like building where we gave apple chunks to monkeys through a wire grid.

Katsura River
To continue on our adventures, Victoria and I retraced our steps down the mountain and across the serene Katsura River via the wooden Togetsukyo Bridge (meaning Moon Crossing Bridge). This view from the bridge shows the pleasure boats on the water. If you look closely, you can see a bride and groom on the promontory to the right.

Bamboo Forest
Once we made it through the crowded streets of souvenir stores, craft shops, ice cream stands, and little cafes (an Owl & Bengal Cat Cafe almost lured us in!), we turned westward toward the famed Bamboo Forest. The wide promenade, lined with bamboo groves on each side, bustled with tourists carrying cameras and rickshaw runners pulling couples in traditional kimono. The crowds did not detract from the experience of green light shimmering thought the tall trees and the wind whispering through the bamboo leaves overhead.

Rakushisha, The Poet's Cottage
With a little more walking, we found pure serenity at the home and garden of the 17th century haikai poet Mukai Kyorai. The name Rakushisha means fallen persimmon hut. The story goes that Kyorai had 40 persimmon trees. The night before he was going to harvest the persimmons, a great storm arose. Kyorai awoke to find all his persimmons on the ground. Instead of lamenting, Kyorai was enlightened by this moment of misfortune.

Gio-ji Temple
Further up and away from the main attractions, Victoria and I entered the moss garden of Gio-ji Temple. With the afternoon waning and no one else present, we were treated to a magical moment. Or perhaps it was Girl Power that touched us. Tiny Gio-ji was named after Gio, one of four women monks who abandoned aristocratic life in Kyoto and lived out her days in the humble temple.

Wandering around Arashiyama clocked in at 62 flights of stairs, 19,084 steps, and 8.5 miles on my iPhone health app. My legs were exhausted and I was sorely ready to soak in my hotel bathtub at the end of the day!

Most Recent Posts

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published


  • Patricia Belyea
    Renee—You sound like a true Japanophile! Join the club. PB

  • renee rivard
    Oh am so Glad too visit the ARASHIYAMA AREA since i can not visit, seeing all this makes my day, I LIKE JAPANESE FILMS subtitles of course. lived IN HAWAII YEARS AGO, become use too their Customs an Arts Fabrics, stores etc. was Great too. THANKS sooooooo much Renee by

  • Jerie Clark
    Am I the only one that can only see a small fraction of each pictures. Only saw the fur of the monkeys

  • Patricia Belyea
    Janet—I could have used a few less steps yesterday. On the way back I had to look for elevators and escalators in all the train stations because I could barely lift up my legs to walk up steps! PB

  • Patricia Belyea
    Diana—Your comment makes it worth my while to post my Japan stories.Thank you! PB

  • Janet Wright
    It sounds like you and Victoria are really packing in some wonderful times and sights. The added plus—lots of steps on your fitbit. Wish I was there.

  • Patricia Belyea
    Katharina—Thank you so much. I’ll be back soon as travel days wiz by fast! PB

  • Katharina Litchman
    Hi Pat – I sent a gift for you to Pam – check in with her when you are back. Enjoy your trip – so envious.


  • diana short
    Loving your adventures in Japan