The Arashiyama area in the West of Kyoto
The Arashiyama area in the West of Kyoto is known as a popular tourist destination because of its beautiful natural scenery and many temples. The focal point of the Arashiyama area is the Togetsukyo Bridge spanning the Katsura river, which is surrounded by green mountains on all sides. There are many attractions on both sides of the river, so why not enjoy the warm May weather and spend a day exploring the area?
Arashiyama is easily accessible from downtown Kyoto: you can travel there by City Bus, Hankyu, JR or Keifuku train lines. You can also enjoy the views along the river by taking the Torokko "Romantic Train" (¥600) from Arashiyama to Kameoka and returning by the Hozugawa Kudari River Boat (¥3900), which gives a spectacular view of the mountain gorges surrounding the river.
The Hankyu Arashiyama Station is located on the South Side of the river, a short walk from Togetsukyo Bridge. Horinji Temple (admission free, open dawn to dusk) is located due south of the of the bridge, at the top of a steep stone staircase. Horinji is best known for the Jusan-Mairi (mid-March through mid-May), when thirteen-year-old children will come dressed in colorful kimono to pray for wisdom.
A little further west is the Iwatayama Monkey Park (Admission ¥500, 9:00-17:00). Many wild monkeys live in the mountains surrounding Arashiyama, and this is a rare chance to see them in their natural habitat. If you'd like to get a closer look, you can buy food inside the rest area on top of the mountain, and feed them from inside the fenced-in enclosure (please do not offer food to the monkeys outside of this area, as it is not safe.) You will surely see many cute baby monkeys playing at the park. Further west along the south bank, you can find the tranquil hillside temple Daihikaku Senkoji (admission ¥400, 9:00-17:00) which offers a spectacular view from its grounds. You may also notice many boats along the banks of the river, some of which are used for traditional cormorant fishing in the summer time.
Perhaps you'd like to stop for a snack before you continue your tour? Why not sample the classic green tea soft cream at Shinpachijaya (across from the north end of Togetsukyo Bridge). The adventurous can indulge in unusual gelato flavors like sakuramochi (cherry blossom rice cake) or yomogi (mugwort).
If you're in the mood for something salty, you can sample the famous potato croquettes at the Nakamuraya korokke stand next to Tenryuji Temple. Tenryuji Temple (admission ¥500, open 8:30-17:30) is located across the street from the Keifuku Arashiyama Station, and is the best known temple in Arashiyama. Tenryuji belongs to the Rinzai sect, and was originally built in 1339 on the site of former emperor Go Daigo's imperial villa. The temple is best known for its 14th century zen garden which survived many fires to retain its original form. It is considered one of the five greatest zen temples within Kyoto.
The hills behind Tenryuji hide a number of smaller temples and shrines, a bamboo forest, the Torokko Arashiyama Station, and the peaceful, spacious Kameyama Park. One of the highlights of this area is the Okochi Sanso Villa (admission ¥900, open 9:00-17:00), the home of famous samurai actor Okochi Denjiro. The price of admission includes maccha tea and sweets, and the lavish gardens within the estate boast a spectacular view of the city. Arashiyama has so much to offer that it's impossible to see it all in one day. It's best to pick a few spots that interest you and take your time to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!
Kyoto Countryside Folk Tools Museum (Kyo no Inaka Mingu Shiryokan), Yamashina
Kyoto Countryside Folk Tools Museum is located in Yamashina, in the Eastern part of Kyoto City, close to the Shiga Prefectural border. The museum's director Mr. Taketani is a former elementary school principal who opened the museum 18 years ago using his own funds. As the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, Kyoto is famous for its cultural heritage in the form of temples, shrines, artworks, handicrafts, and machiya townhouses. However, very little is know about the surrounding "Kyoto countryside" that supported the cityfs growth. The Japanese lifestyle changed drastically following World War 2, and many of the traditional implements used in agriculture and daily life began to disappear. For this reason, Mr. Taketani decided to open this museum to display the tools that were historically used in the Kyoto countryside.
The first floor focuses on tools used in agriculture and working in the mountains, as well as implements for weaving. The second floor displays objects used in daily life, such as heaters, bento lunch boxes, lamps, bath tubs, a type of stairs used a chest of drawers called hakodan, and so forth. These items could be found in any household in olden times, but are rarely seen anymore. The museum annex displays tools used by merchants, and the garden storehouse features tools for transporting goods and people such as trailers, two wheeled wagons, palaquins and so forth. As a special exhibit, an assortment of toys and dolls from foreign countries will be on display until May 29th. As the name would indicate, The Kyoto Countryside Folk Tools Museum is located a little far afield from the city center. However, it is worth the making the trip to learn more about the fascinating lives of the people who once lived in the Kyoto Countryside. The museum director will be happy to answer any questionsyou might have about the tools displayed and the traditional Japanese lifestyle.
Kyo no Inaka Mingu Shiryokan
Operating Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 9:00-16:00 (closed Mondays and Dec. 29th-Jan. 3rd)
Access: Keihan Bus #20/21 from Yamashina Station, 5 minute walk from Koyama Bus Stop. The museum is also a 20 minute walk from Keihan Keishin line Oiwake Station on the path to leading to Ushio Mountain.
Yamashina Hiking Course:
This museum is located on the way to the Ushio Mountain Hiking Course, which is the perfect way to enjoy the area during the warm May weather. You can climb to see the Ushio Kannon temple at the top of the mountain. From this point you can return to Oiwake station, or you can pass through Otowayama and descend at Zeze in Shiga Prefecture. It takes about 3 hours to hike from Oiwake Station to Zeze, for a total distance of 10 kilometers. For those people with a lot of stamina, you can go to Kami-Daigo via Sakura-no-Baba and take the course to Daigoji Temple, returning via Subway Daigo Station.
- Article by Mariko Amanuma, Translation by Bianca Jarvis
Note:This list is by no means exhaustive. Information is subject to change without warning.