There are a lot of big, bright, bustling cities in Japan. But if you’re after the true Japanese experience, I recommend heading outside of those big cities, and exploring historic Japan. Arashiyama is a small town in Kyoto, just over an hour away from Osaka. If you’ve been traveling around the major cities, catching trains and bumping shoulders with strangers while walking down the street, Arashiyama will be quite a change of pace.
We only spent a couple of days exploring Kyoto, but it was one of my favourite places in Japan. You instantly feel a peaceful vibe, everything is quiet. There’s no loud traffic, no bustling nightlife. Arashiyama remains true to its history, and I love that. Not to mention the fact that it’s an absolutely beautiful town to visit, and where I saw my first Japanese cherry blossom trees!
Russell and I had spent 6 days exploring the modern, loud, high-tech side of Japan; with huge buildings, flashing neon lights and overwhelming crowds of people. So taking a breather to spend the day exploring the beautiful town of Arashiyama, was a welcoming change of pace.
Here’s what you need to know about Arashiyama, Kyoto!
GETTING TO ARASHIYAMA, KYOTO
By train from Osaka – Depending on where in Osaka you’re leaving from (i.e what train station), you’ll need to either catch the Hankyu-Kyoto line or Hankyu-Arashiyama line. Use Google Maps for directions before catching any train, so you know you’re definitely heading the right way!
By train from Tokyo – The best way to get from Tokyo to Arashiyama, is by Shinkansen (Bullet Train). You’ll need to take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Kyoto Station. From there, walk towards the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop and hop on a bus for 27 stops, until you arrive at Arashiyama Park bus stop. From here, walk 800 metres to the heart of Arashiyama! Again, use Google Maps for accurate directions, and the specific trains and buses you need to take!
Traveling by train is generally the best way to get around Japan. Once you head out of the major cities, it will be more difficult to find regular running trains, but it’s a good way to get you close to where you are heading, fairly easily!
THINGS TO DO IN ARASHIYAMA
When Russell and I were planning our trip to Japan, during our research we came across the Arashiyama Monkey Park. This was one of the main reasons we wanted to visit Arashiyama, but unfortunately it was more difficult to find than we first thought. This meant we didn’t actually get a chance to visit. Maybe we were just really bad with directions, but nevertheless, we never made it.
That being said, we still found quite a few awesome things to do in Arashiyama:
The Bamboo Forest is one of Kyoto, and more specifically Arashiyama’s, most popular tourist attractions. From the moment you step foot into the gorgeous grove of bamboo, you’ll see why. If you have been planning a trip to Kyoto, you have probably come across photos of the Bamboo Forest during your research. Russell and I knew about the Bamboo Forest months before arriving in Japan, and it was definitely at the top of our list of things to see in Kyoto.
It’s pretty easy to find once you’re in Arashiyama. When you arrive at the Arashiyama Station, walk across the large foot and traffic bridge connecting both sides of the town, and head up the main street. You’ll come across endless shops along the way selling food, souvenirs and even a store where you can get your name engraved on a pair of chopsticks! (I got my name written in Japanese!).
Opening Hours: 24/7
Location: 10 minute walk from Arashiyama Station
There is one single path that leads through the forest, taking you through the endless amount of Bamboo trees. It’s a place that photos don’t really even do justice. You’ll have to add Arashiyama, Kyoto to your Japan itinerary and see for yourself just how beautiful the Bamboo Forest really is.
Bengal Cat Cafe
While exploring the main street in Arashiyama, we came across a Cat Cafe, hidden around a corner away from all of the activity in the centre of town. For 600 yen, you’ll get to spend 30 minutes in a very cool cafe filled with beautiful Bengal cats. A lot of them are still kittens, so you’ll find that they are very playful and keen to run around and be a great source of entertainment! You aren’t allowed to pick them up, but you can play with them until your heart is content.
Cost: 600 yen
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 7:30pm
Location: Approximately 15 minute walk from Arashiyama Station
Cherry Blossom trees (in Spring) & Incredible Views of Arashiyama
Shortly after arriving in Arashiyama, we made our way up a steep hill and came across a beautiful view of the town. This was actually my first sighting of Japanese cherry blossom trees, which I had been excited for since we started planning our trip to Japan!
The mountains are so lush and green, you won’t want to leave. Before arriving in Japan, Russell and I had been living in Alice Springs (the desert town in the middle of Australia) for 4 months. So we were pretty thrilled to see some greenery – it was a great change from all the rest dust and desert dirt!
Location: Short walk from Arashiyama Station
As I’ve already mentioned, there aren’t too many things to see and do in Arashiyama, compared to Japan’s big cities. But if you are looking for a place to spend a relaxing day or two, I would definitely suggest visiting this historic town in Kyoto.
Have you visited Arashiyama before? Did you love it as much as we did? Tell me in the comments below!
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