Arashiyama, beyond the bamboo forest
Take an in-depth tour of Arashiyama, Kyoto's traditional resort, and discover what lies on the other side of the bamboo grove.
Japan's first Zen garden
Arashiyama is synonymous with bamboo forest, but the area, loved by Heian era aristocrats (8th-12th centuries) for its natural scenery and serenity away from the imperial city, contains many other treasures. Before the tourists begin to arrive, you can start your visit at the Tenryuji, "Temple of the Celestial Dragon", whose grounds extend over a large part of the Arashiyama district. The Tenryuji is a Mecca of Japanese Zen Buddhism, and is home to the first dry garden (karesansui in Japanese) in Japan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed by the landscape monk Muso Soseki (14th century), this Zen garden, which is difficult to appreciate on its own, contains many symbols that your guide will be able to decode for you.
Arashiyama away from the crowd
On the other side of the Tenryuji, beyond the bamboo forest, lies the Arashiyama district, far from the crowds. And there is a wide range of choices: lovers of haiku and traditional Japanese architecture can stop off at the Rakushisha, the rustic thatched cottage of the Edo era poet Mukai Korai. A little further on, your guide will take you along the peaceful Saga Toriimoto Street, which has been preserved since the late 19th century. From there, why not push open the door of the Gioji monastery and discover its discreet moss garden and the tragic story of its nuns? The most adventurous can extend the walk to the small Otagi Nenbutsuji temple and its 1,200 photogenic stone statues!
For those travelling with children, the Iwatayama Monkey Park is an almost unmissable stop. Your tour guide will accompany you across the Togetsukyo Bridgefor a 15-minute trip to the top of Iwatayama Hill. There, your children will be able to see more than 100 Japanese macaques in the wild. They will even get the chance to feed them inside a cage-like shed: yes, because here it is the human who is in the cage and the monkeys who are free! On the way, take a moment to admire the view of Kyoto, before heading back down to the main street of Arashiyama.
A morning for you to do as you please
"Your guide will meet you at the exit of JR Saga Arashiyama station (15 minutes from Kyoto Central Station) at 9am to enjoy the morning calm. As the Arashiyama district is particularly vast and full of interesting sites, your guide will suggest a visit based on your expectations and desires, with a choice of walks (be prepared to walk!), visits to temples and gardens, or an excursion to the monkey park for children. Most of the sites require payment, so expect to pay between 500 and 1,500 yen per person for the morning. At the end of the tour, at midday, your guide can advise you on where to eat in the Arashiyama district. Finally, your tour guide will provide you with sightseeing tips for the rest of your day, whether you decide to continue your visit to Arashiyama or visit another part of Kyoto.