June 29, 2014
By Haruka Chaya and Ayaka Endo
Who do you want to go to Arashiyama with? Arashiyama (literally “storm mountain”) is the name of a mountain and district in western Kyoto where the Hozu River empties from the western hills. After it flows under the Togetsukyo Bridge it is called the Oi River. Later downstream it becomes the Katsura River. Designated a National Historic Sight and Place of Scenic Beauty, Arashiyama is filled with natural wonders and many historical and cultural spots of interest that are all within walking distance of each other. If you want to go there with your girlfriend or boyfriend, a friend, or your family, we recommend you try our Arashiyama sightseeing course, which includes a monkey park, boating, a path through a bamboo grove and shopping.
First stop: Iwatayama Monkey Park
At the top of the mountain just above the Katsura River is the Iwatayama Monkey Park. It is a short climb to get there, but once you are there you are surround by monkeys. There are about 130 monkeys in the park, from young monkeys to adults. They are a wild group, but visitors from fee them from a special mountain hut. As they are wild, we can see natural behavior. Sometimes they are grooming each other or fighting; relaxing or playing, drinking water or begging for food. If a monkey approaches you it is best to never pet or touch the monkey, also and avert looking into the monkeys eyes. For males, looking into the eyes is a challenge. Furthermore, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of Kyoto from this mountain park. The park is only a short distance from the Saga-Arashiyama Station.
Second stop: Boating
After you climb down from the monkey mountain park, you will come upon the Togetsu Bridge, one of the most iconic landmarks in Kyoto. When standing in the center of the bridge and looking north, you will be treated to a classic scene of mountains and river, which is especially beautiful in spring and autumn.
Doushou, a pupil of the famous priest Kuukai, is said to have built the first bridge over the Oi River between 834~848. The bridge was later called “Togetsukyo” or “moon crossing bridge,” so named by the 90th emperor of Japan, Kameyama Tenno (reign from 1259-1274). The current design was made in the 17th century, but the bridge was renovated in 1934.
After crossing the bridge turn left and walk along the riverbank until you come to a small pier with lots of rental boats. Here you can rent boats and enjoy experiencing beautiful views of the surrounding hills while boating on the river. Boat rental costs 1,400 yen an hour. On the opposite bank is a food stand where boaters can order Japanese food directly from their boat. On the menu is mitarashi dango (rice dumplings with sweet sauce), yakisoba (fried noodles), tempura, udon, and drinks.
Third Stop: Bamboo Grove
After you have enjoyed you boat outing, you can walk a path that passes through a bamboo forest. It is called Chikurin no Michi in Japanese. This area has been a bamboo forest for more than a thousand years. The forest is full of pleasant sounds —the bamboo swaying in the breeze and the song of bush warblers. This makes it a very relaxing place.
Fourth Stop: Getting Something to Eat
In Arashiyama there are many local food specialties: for example, green tea and boiled tofu or bracken rice cakes and so on. We especially recommend trying one of the many varieties of food that are made with green tea. You can try green tea soft ice cream a shop near the Randen train station. You’ll enjoy sharing a cone of soft green tea ice cream with your partner. Please look at the above map.
You can get here by Hankyu train, JR, or the Randen line. Please get off the Arashiyama Station.