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Published on 06.03.2016
The Arashiyama district; enjoy its history and scenic beauty
The Arashiyama district is in the western outskirts of Kyoto city and usually refers to the area around Togetsukyo bridge. It’s one of the major tourist spots in Kyoto and is designated as a National Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. Aristocrats in the Heian era (c. 9th century) loved the natural beauty in Arashiyama, especially the cherry blossoms and autumn colours, and wrote many poems regarding this district.
Where to visit
Togetsukyo is a symbol of Arashiyama and means ‘a bridge where the moon crosses’. It’s said that Kameoka Jokou (an ex-emperor) coined the name while he was observing the moon. It was first constructed in the 9th century and the present one was built in 1934. The 155m bridge over Ooi river (a.k.a. Katsura river) is made of reinforced concrete at the girders and piers, and wood at the balustrade in order to harmonise with the surrounding scenery.
To enjoy the spectacular view, visit Togetsukyo at the beginning of April for cherry blossom season and mid-to-late November for autumn colours.
Togetsukyo is always busy with tourists but becomes quiet after dark. Enjoy the quiet atmosphere and what Arashiyama was like during the ancient times. The bridge is lit up by dim LED lights which are powered by a micro hydraulic power plant upstream.
Address: Tenryuji-susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Access: 11-minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama station, 9-minute from Hankyu Arashiyama station, 4-minute from Keifuku Arashiyama station.
Tenryu-ji stands at the site of Japan’s first Zen temple, Danrin-ji. In 1339, the first shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate, Ashikaga Takauji, established Tenryu-ji as a memorial to the death of the Emperor Godaigo. It flourished as one of five top temples in Kyoto during the Muromachi period. It was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto’ in 1994.
Takauji placed Muso Soseki, an honourable zen Buddhism monk and a master garden designer as a first chief priest at Tenryu-ji, and he created one of finest zen gardens here. It’s designated as one of Japan’s ‘Most Notable Historic Sites and A Special Place of Scenic Beauty’.
Address: 68 Saga Tenryuji Susukinobaba-chō, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto
Access: 13-minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama station, 15-minute from Hankyu Arashiyama station, 5-minute from Keifuku Arashiyama station.
Open: 8.30-17.30 (closes at 17.00 from late October to late March)
<Garden only> 500yen for over 15years, 300yen over 6years, free for under 5years
<Garden and buildings> additional 300yen to above fee.
<Special Admission to the Cloud-Dragon Painting at Dharma Hall> 500yen
Dharma Hall opens only weekends, Holidays and special exhibition period. Check their website for details.
NB: The north gate of Tenryu-ji is directly connected to the Bamboo forest. Be careful as you aren’t allowed to re-enter once you exit from the gate.
Free Drop-in Zazen session at Tenryu-ji
Tenryu-ji hold free zazen sessions for everyone. No appointment is required and beginners are welcome. (Admission fee to temple required)
￭ 9.00-10.00am on second Sunday of every month except July, August and February.
￭ 6:00-8:00am on the final Saturday and Sunday of July *this is a special session called ‘Gyoten’ (the sky at dawn). 1-hour zazen session followed by 1-hour preach.
Where: Yu'un-an (Floating Cloud Hermitage)
Bamboo has a special bond to everyday Japanese life, as a protection of buildings from strong wind, materials for everyday tools and a seasonal delicacy. In recent years, however, the importance for bamboo has been reduced and many bamboo forest were lost.
In Arashiyama, because the area has been a renowned beauty spot since the ancient eras, the bamboo forest has been taken care of and conserved.
Enjoy the magical scenery and tranquil atmosphere. It has been quite crowded in recent years, so go there in early morning if you want to feel its actual serenity.
In December during ‘Kyoto Arashiyama hanagaitou week’, the forest is lit up and reveals a spectacular night view.
Access: The forest is situated between Nonomiya shrine (10-minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama station) and Okochi sanso villa. Both are served by local buses. You can also walk in the forest via the north gate of Tenryu-ji.
If you have time, both Nonomiya shrine and Okochi sanso villa are worth visiting.
Source: Happy in Japan