On Day 11, we headed from Osaka to Kyoto. Because the two cities are 30 minutes away by JR, we decided to just settle in Osaka and use it as a base instead of finding accommodation in Kyoto. Kyoto accommodation is also quite expensive, so it’s best to stay in Osaka to save a few bucks. Our trip today would be to check out Arashiyama, an outskirt of Kyoto. After taking the JR Kyoto line to Kyoto Station, we switched to the JR Sagano Line (also known as JR Sanin Line). It only takes 15 minutes to get to Saga-Arashiyama Station and you will find many tourists getting off here. From the station, it only takes around 10 minutes to get to the tourist attractions.
You’ll arrive at this street that leads to various attractions. We decided to go take a quick look at some of the temples first. Be ready for lots of walking around here unless you want to get a rickshaw!
We arrived at Tenryuji Temple (天龍寺) which is one of the most famous temples in Arashiyama. It is also registered as a UNESCO world heritage site. Admission is 500 yen but since we are not very into temples, we decided to skip this and just took some pictures outside. Around this area, there are also many unique traditional buildings to take pictures of.
Around a 15 minute walk away is the famous Bamboo Grove. The walkway is paved so it makes it very easy to walk but the walk will still take you around 30 minutes one way to the very end if you stop and take pictures. I would allocate a whole hour for this so you can really soak it in. You can also choose to rent a bike instead but there are quite a lot of tourists walking, so it’s pretty difficult to bike the whole time here. Beautiful spot to get some pictures here!
At the entrance of the bamboo grove, there are various food stands selling quick snacks. Starving after the walk in the bamboo grove, we got a Hojicha (roasted tea) and Matcha Soft Serve. So good!
We then walked back towards the tourist shops and decided on a cute little soba store for lunch. I don’t know what the name of the store is as there was no English, but they seemed to focus on soba noodles. So simple but satisfying. Plus, this shop was more affordable as many of the restaurants in this area can be quite expensive.
One of the most iconic spots in Arashiyama is the Togetsukyo Bridge. A beauitful bridge which water beneath and greenery and blue skies in the background. During cherry blossom season and the autumn is probably the best time to visit this area, but regardless, it’s still a nice getaway from the busy cities.
After crossing the bridge, we arrived to the entrance of Monkey Park Iwatayama. It costs 550 yen, but I thought it was well worth it if you haven’t seen monkeys run in the wild. Plus, you get a scenic view at the top of the mountain.
They tell you it’s a short hike up, but be warned that the hike is quite steep! Especially in the heat, you will want to make sure you have a bottle of water. I think it took us roughly 30 minutes to get up although we made pit spots to catch our breath in the hot weather. When you get near the top, you will start to see some monkeys swinging across trees!
Finally, we are up top! This open area allows the monkeys to roam free. You are warned that you should not stare directly at the monkeys’ eyes or get too close to them. They seem to be quite accustomed to the tourists, but you should still be careful here!
If you are not completely sold on seeing monkeys, then the view of Kyoto city is definitely a reason to come up here. A relatively short walk and you can see pretty much all of Kyoto from here.
At the top, there is also a shelter area where the monkeys are not allowed in.
Here, you can buy food for 100 yen to feed these monkeys safely. They will climb on the fence and you can put the food on the palm of your hand so they reach in to take it.
The monkeys here are called snow monkeys and they are pretty funny looking with red faces and bottoms. Look at this greedy one! He took all my peanuts and stuffed it in his mouth so he could collect and save them for later. Tricky monkeys!
After most of the day at Arashiyama, we decided to hit up one more spot in Kyoto. The famous Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine (伏見稲荷大社). The shrine is located at Inari Station and you can take the JR Nara Line once you get back to the Kyoto Station. It takes only around 5 minutes from Kyoto Station to Inari Station. Upon arriving, you will be greeted by the huge torii gate. Entrance to this attraction is free.
You will then find many traditional activities around the front such as this wash basin. Follow the instructions on the board and wash your hands following the steps, and apparently it will give you good luck! Why not?
Here is the map of the shrine. This shrine is probably one of the most interesting ones because it is known for having thousands of torii gates along the path. It is really a hike in itself if you want to reach the very end because it will probably take you 2-3 hours round trip. You will end up at the top of Mount Inari which stands 233 meters high. Most tourists will not do the whole hike and neither did we as it was getting dark.
As you can see, the trail is nicely paved and you will find rows upon rows of torii gates lined up. Each torii gate is donated by an individual or company and you will find their name and date of donation inscribed on the back of each gate. You will definitely find some photo worthy spots here, but I would suggest coming during daylight as we found it more difficult to take pictures in the dark and if you go way further in, there becomes less people, making it a little scary if you happen to get lost. Also many of the souvenir and street food stalls around the area close once it gets closer to the evening. Otherwise, it ensures you can get a picture without anyone in your picture if you come at night.
As it got dark quite early, we decided to head back to Kyoto Station and grab dinner.
Not really having any plans in mind, we ended up inside Kyoto Daimaru, a department store and headed to the basement because by now, we know that all Japanese department stores have a basement of gourmet goodies! I decided to try this sushi box which is pressed sushi cut into squares. The top is a variety of cured fish and vegetables. It was pretty to look at, but honestly, it didn’t taste that good. Perhaps I like the fresh sashimi so this wasn’t my thing. After dinner, we were tired from a long day so just took the train back to Osaka to rest up.