During my recent trip to Kyoto, I was determined to visit the bamboo forest in Arashiyama as I unfortunately had to miss it last year! Little did I know that Arashiyama is not only famous for the bamboo forest, but there are also charming temples, a monkey park up the hill, and some amazing food!
After doing a ton of research, we found out the bamboo forest starts to get crowded around 9 in the morning so we decided to beat the crowd and get there at 8! It’s about an hour trip from Kyoto by bus or train. We decided to take the JR train “San-In Line” from Kyoto station to Arashiyama station because it was less confusing.
After we got off the station, we followed the signs and walked for about 10 minutes and came upon this gem.
I got a little too excited and started taking photos here not knowing there were more dense bamboo forests just a little bit further down!
We were so captivated by the beauty of the forest (and the fact that nobody was here) we didn’t realize this forest was full of mosquito! I ended up getting 7 bites on my legs from the hour that I was there, so be prepared before you come!
Like what we expected, by 9 o’clock more and more people started showing up and we were then off to our next destination, the Tenjyuri Temple.
Tenjyuri Temple (天龍寺)
The Tenjyuri Temple is one of the most important temple in the Arashiyama area. Although the main building had been burned down a few times throughout the centuries, the beautiful garden remained intact and untouched. We walked by this temple when we were exploring the bamboo forest since the temple opens at 9. Since we came to the temple right when it opened, we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves!
We saw some people exploring the actual building, but it’s another entrance and fee in addition to the garden so we didn’t go in, but the building looked pretty awesome if you had never visited a traditional Japanese temple before.
The Togetsu-kyo Bridge may look like an ordinary wooden bridge, but there is 400 years of history behind it. It’s only a few minute walk from the Bamboo Forest and the Tenjyuri Temple. They say that during Sakura (cherry-blossom) season and foliage peak, tons of people would stand on the bridge to enjoy the view Arashiyama mountain and Katsuna River has to offer.
I’ve always loved fluffy things so I was SO excited when I found out there is a Monkey Park up the hill in Arashiyama! It’s 550YEN per adult and a 20 minute hike uphill, but it’s totally worth the effort! The monkeys at the park are Japanese snow monkeys, so they survive well in the snowy mountain weather in the winter. We were concerned that the weather might have been too hot for them but we were happy to see the monkeys were so active and energetic!
The first thing you see when you enter the entrance is a nice little shrine. We were too excited to see the monkeys so we didn’t spend too much time here.
After hiking up for about 20 minutes and wondering if we were ever going to get there, we finally came across these cute guys!
If you want to feed the monkeys, there is a designated house where you can go in, spend 100 Yen to get a bag of apples and feed them through the fence. Some of the big monkeys can get really greedy and bully the tiny ones out of the way
After feeding them the whole bag (I’m not sure why they are not fatter considering how often people feed them), we decided to explore the area a little bit more.
We didn’t realize we had hiked up so much to have this breathtaking panorama view of Kyoto! You can actually see the tower near Kyoto station in the photo.
We also found some cuties while we were exploring. For your safety, the park prohibited us from getting too close to them, stare them into the eye, or touch them.
One last stop at the shrine before heading out to stuff ourselves!
Specialty Food in Arashiyama
Now that we’ve already spent half of the day visiting things before they got crowded, we finally had time to explore the food scene in this charming town.
Bitter Citrus/ Yuzu Jelly
Natsumikan is a Japanese citrus fruit during the summer and there is a store in Arashiyama that sells a chilled Natsumikan jelly. In this chilled version, a citrus flavored jelly is put inside a Natsumikan peel. It looks like a fruit on the outside but when you bite into the jelly, you can taste the slightly bitter refreshing jelly and I see why it’s so popular during the summer times!
The store we visited was called Oimatsu: 20 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho Ukyo-ku Kyoto.
Before I go into this, I have to say that this is probably not for everyone, especially those expecting a meaty meal or a meal full of strong flavors. From my experience in Japan, most traditional Japanese cuisines do not have strong flavors such as teriyaki sauce over everything as expected from many western countries. However, for those who want to explore something new (and Vegan), this is the right place for you.
The place we checked out was Kyo Arashiyama Ine, a two story restaurant in front of the Tenryu Shrine. We got there quite early but it got crowded really quickly after we sat down. The restaurant serves several set menus and we picked the two that looked the most interesting to us: The Arashiyama Dish and the Pail Tofu Skin Dish. We picked these two because they offered different side dishes and sauce and it was too hot to pick anything in a boiling pot.
Coming from the US, I was a bit surprised by the “lack” of flavors in the first bite, but I quickly got used to a more natural flavor this meal had brought. It was impressive how everything you see was made out of Tofu, even the desserts.