Arashiyama, a region of Kyoto that, after the trip there which I am about to describe, has easily become my favorite area of Kyoto! Aside from being set amongst a beautiful landscape,
Arashiyama has many other things going for it as well. For example, it is very easily accessible considering it has not one, but two train stations in town; a JR station and a Randen station. Depending on where you’re coming from or going to, both are very useful and convenient. Furthermore, there is a fantastic, quaint little town strip going through Arashiyama that has lots of shops for souvenirs, food, kimono/yukata rental, etc… Then there’re the sightseeing opportunities! There are an abundance of beautiful temples and shrines in this region of Kyoto, many of which have substantial cultural and historical significance. Then of course, there are the bamboo forests of Arashiyama, which are perhaps the region’s most famous landmark. And finally, after hiking a small mountain you will find yourself in the company of the only monkey species native to Japan, the Macaque.
Despite all of these amazing opportunities being in such close proximity and allowing us to see so much in so little time, the highlight of Arashiyama for us was where we lodged; the Arashiyama Benkei Ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn. This takes us to where my previous post left off. After killing time in town, we were finally allowed to check in at 4pm. Once we did, we experienced nothing but serene relaxation until 11am the next day. Once we had been shown our room and allowed a few minutes to settle, a hostess came in to prepare some tea for us and asked us when we would like to have dinner. We said 7:30, and then proceeded to enjoy the hot springs. The ryokan has their own separated public baths, but our room also had a private open-air bath with views out to the surrounding mountains.
The next morning, we enjoyed our breakfast fairly early in order to check out and go see the sights of Arashiyama that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. We were able to leave our heavy bags there fortunately. As we left, one of the hostesses offered to take our picture for us out front of the ryokan,
and then as we left, she maintained a very low bow until we were completely out of sight. Our first stop was the famous Tenryu-ji temple. In depth information about this historic temple can be found HERE. The short story is that this temple was the first of the five major Zen Buddhist temples to be established in Kyoto, dating back to the year 1345. This site has, unfortunately, been devastated by major fires no less than eight times! However, each time rehabilitation efforts have been made to great success. It stands today as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty, a designation made by the Japanese government, as well as a UNESCO-registered World Heritage Site.
Near the end of the walking path however, there was a pay-to-enter garden that had been designed and built by a famous Japanese silent film actor. We heard good things from a person walking out, mentioning in particular a lack of crowds as well as a complimentary cup of mattcha and a Japanese sweet. So we decided to check it out. The garden had particularly beautiful moss gardens, as well as beautifully built paths that wound up a short mountain to reveal breathtaking scenery.
At this point we were all starting to get a bit fatigued. Of course, we enjoyed the tea and sweets offered at the garden, but then we made our way back across town towards the ryokan because in order to make it to the monkeys we had to backtrack a bit. That allowed us to hit up that nice coffee shop though which provided us with a nice pick-me-up. We were to need it too, because in order to reach the monkey’s lair we would have to hike up a not-so-shallow mountain.
When we arrived, we were happy to see that the monkeys were, in fact, very free. It seemed to us that they all simply chose to hang out around there. The monkeys were all roaming around cage-free, even hanging out on top of buildings for shade occasionally!
They were incredibly cute, but having felt like we were invading their territory, we didn’t linger here either, so we began our hike back down after about 15 minutes. After that, we made our way back to the ryokan for a final time before beginning our journey back to Osaka. Mom’s time in Japan was rapidly drawing to a close, with her flight leaving the next day from Kansai International. A few hours later and multiple train transfers later, we had settled into our hotel in Shin-Osaka and decided to unceremoniously commemorate mom’s last night in Japan at an Indian restaurant!