Located in the northwestern area of Kyoto, Arashiyama draws many because of its beautiful scenery that changes with each of the seasons. The area is dotted with temples, old imperial villas, and famous historical sites, many of which are National Treasures, or have been recognized by UNESCO as World Cultural Heritage Sites. The entire region is designated by the Japanese government as a Place of Scenic Beauty.
Arashiyama can be easily reached from JR Kyoto Station and many other places throughout Kyoto by railway.
It can be reached on one of three railway lines: the JR Sagano Line which serves Saga Arashiyama Station; the Hankyu Line to Arashiyama Station; or the Keifuku Randen Tram Line, with its own Arashiyama Station.
In the 13th century, Emperor Go-Saga had Yoshino's famous cherry trees moved here, making the area popular for cherry blossom viewing
There are light ups through out the year, where colored beams are thrown upon the hillsides and the tops of the bamboo grove
The views from the top of the Iwatayama Monkey Park offer a unique perspective of the distant Higashiyama mountainscape
Across from Arashiyama is Mt. Ogura, famed as the setting for the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu—a classical anthology of one hundred Japanese waka by one hundred poets who wrote one poem each. A card game adapted from the anthology is a popular and highly competitive pastime. Since ancient times, renowned poets such as Basho have come on pilgrimage to Arashiyama.
Wisdom of another sort was sought at Tenryu-ji, ranked one of the top of the hierarchy of Kyoto’s temples.
Its garden is one of Kyoto’s best, incorporating the surrounding mountains into its design, using the Japanese garden design concept of shakkei, or borrowed scenery. The exit at the back of the grounds leads directly to Arashiyama’s world famous bamboo grove.
The Togetsukyo, or Moon Crossing Bridge, could perhaps be considered the area’s most recognizable feature, providing as it does a panoramic view of the mountain of Arashi-yama itself. Originally called “Horinji Bridge” as it leads directly to Horinji Temple, the name was changed to Togetsukyo Bridge because Heian Period (794-1185) Emperor Kameyama said during a moon viewing party that it looked as if the moon was crossing the bridge.
The name of the river flowing beneath Togetsukyo Bridge changes depending on the location. It is called Oigawa River in the upper course, Hozugawa River in the middle course, and Katsuragawa River in the lower course.
The Heian aristocratic custom of elegant boating presented the nobility an occasion to be freed temporarily from their sheltered royal world. This custom has continued up to the present day, and you can enjoy a closer look at the beautiful Hozu River gorge on the Hozugawa Boat Ride.
A narrow-gauge train also runs along the river, and you should visit both to get a closer look at the ever changing face of Arashi-yama’s natural landscape, celebrated by poets since ancient times.
An enjoyable visit to Arashi-yama should be leisurely. Plan for a half or full day to take in the sights and not feel rushed through the idyllic setting.