Going to Kyoto
This had been on our list for a while, however, travelling from Sendai to Kyoto can get murderously expensive, so we were waiting for a long weekend and some vacation time. When this came in October, we booked a ticket early on, for a night bus that would leave from Sendai at 10pm and arrive in Kyoto at 6am
These night buses are really comfortable. They don’t take that many people and you can lay practically horizontally and sleep during the whole trip. As far as safety goes, we used them often and there were always two drivers in every bus, who stopped every two hours for a break at service stations.
The inside our night Bus to Kyoto
As soon as the bus arrived in Kyoto we took our backpacks and went to the station’s toilet – by the way, Japan has the cleanest of toilets wherever you go, so yes we went to the station’s toilet – to brush up and freshen up for the day.
Train to Arashiyama
Arashiyama is a popular relaxing day trip from Kyoto and is mostly known for the tall bamboo groves and the famous old bridge,
To me it was a mandatory stop because of a certain anime ending video that featured a beautiful garden filled with small Buddhist statues. Before going to Japan I researched where it was and found out it was Otagi Nenbutsuji in Arashiyama and so this became a mandatory stop for me.
On our way to Otagi Nenbutsuji
This temple is a little bit far from the town centre so you will need to walk for a while.
Family houses with small cultivated gardens
Because we arrived really early we still had to wait for the temple to open, however they were really kind and even let us in a little earlier than the opening hours.
Otagi Nenbutsuji entrance
In Otagi Nenbutsuji you can find 1200 carved stone figures of Buddhist followers made by visitors. The main hall of the temple dates from the Kamakura period between 1192 e 1333 and inside there is also an image of a god that is supposed to protect Kyoto from fires.
Otagi Nenbutsuji carved stones
On our way back to the tourist area we did not go back through the main road again. We decided to go through the residential neighbourhood. Which was really cool because we ended up passing through the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street, which has some old houses kept in the traditional machiya (“town house”) style of the Meiji period.
Passing here can really make you feel as if you were transported to a different time and the kindness of the people who kept saying hello and good morning, was really endearing
The neighbour hood in Arashiyama
As we walked toward the city centre we crossed the train line and ended up passing the Nonomiya Shrine 野宮神社.
The train line to Saga Arasiyama station and Nonomiya Shrine
Eventually we found ourselves inside the bamboo grove and at that time in the morning this area was not as crowded as usual, which was perfect!
We finally walked through a park and reached the Katsura gawa and the Togetsukyo Bridge, a reconstructed local icon from the Heian period 794-1185
The Katsura river
The famous Togetsukyo Bridge
The sun was high, really strong and we struggled to find some shade. Luckily lunch time was approaching and we decided to stop at one of the restaurants near the river.
Our food choice for this day was cold soba with tempura for me, one of my favourites and Vera had a donburi, probably of either pork or beef. The presentation of these dishes was already mouth-watering.
Food choice for the day
City shops, souvenirs and restaurants
After lunch we went to get our sweets souvenir and sat down under a tree on the riverside enjoying the beautiful view of Togetsukyo Bridge and Mount Arashi.
This time we picked a shinsengumi samurai box with matcha mochi inside. In the Kyoto area you will find almost everything made with matcha.
Our sweet choice for the day
At this point the centre was getting really crowed and since we still had to visit Fushimi Inari in the afternoon, we decided it was time to go.
Going back to the Saga Arashiyama station
Half a day in Arashiyama was all we had time for, however it was really worth the effort to visit and I think we did the best we could with the little time we had.
To get to Arashiyama, from Kyoto, you need to take the JR Sagano Line to Saga Arashiyama which will take you approximately 20 minutes and cost around 3 dollars. It’s really inexpensive and definitely worth the visit even if you are on a short budget or short on time as we were.
If you want to visit Otagi Nenbutsuji GoogleMaps says it’s a 40 minute walk that goes up to 153 meters high. If you don’t want to walk check at the tourist information centre whether there is a bus that goes up there. I am not sure that there was one at that time and I was not able find any current information on that.
Also beware that that if you decide to go through the main road, at some point you will have to walk on the side of the road and there is no sidewalk. However, there is another street that goes parallel to the main road that will be more suitable for walking.
To get the perfect picture of the bamboo grove I recommend getting there really early so that the street is not too crowded, otherwise it will be impossible. We were there in October, still in time for the Autumn colors viewing in Kyoto. Spring I can imagine will be as crowded or even more.
Togetsukyo Bridge is a very iconic bridge in Arashiyama, built during the Heian period was featured in a wood block print by Hokusai in Unusual Views of Famous Bridges in Various Provinces.
We didn’t enter any other temples but found walking and taking pictures really rewarding on itself. Arashiyama is a really beautiful place so make sure to enjoy the nature, temples, people and food.
What would I do differently
I am not a person who dwells on what ifs and I am really satisfied with all our travels in Japan, but I thought it might be interesting for someone else, to know what I would do differently in this itinerary.
First, a full day is best when coming to Arashiyama. Depending on what you like the most, there are so many things to do and see to keep you busy and full day is best so that everything can be taken in properly .
In case you decide to visit Otagi Nenbutsuji, renting a bike could help you optimise your time, otherwise, a full day will do just fine, even on foot.
Personally to this itinerary I would add the Sagano Doll House, known as Kyoto Japanese Folk Dolls Museum ( located between the preserved street and the Nonomiya shrine ) and the Arashiyama Hot Springs (after crossing the Togetsukyo Bridge). I would have traveled the Saga Scenic Railway and probably payed for a boat tour in Katsura gawa. All of these however can make your pocket significantly lighter.
Next post will be about our afternoon at Fushimi Inari.