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A Day in Arashiyama, Japan
Arashiyama is a fantastic day out if you're staying in a nearby city such as Kyoto or Osaka, and you enjoy seeing the quieter side of Japan with a little more tradition and culture than the bigger cities. Arashiyama is easily reachable by train from Osaka by taking the JR Tokaido Main Line and changing at Kyoto station, then taking the JR Sanin Main Line to SagaArashiyama station. You can see a lot of the countryside during the train journey, including rivers and mountains, which gave us an indication of what our day was going to be like. This article is an account of our day out in Arashiyama.
Arashiyama is a small town near Kyoto, packed with attractions like the monkey park, beautiful countryside, and a real feel of Japanese culture that you may not get in bigger cities. When we went, it was spring, and many flowers were in bloom.
Arashi means storm, and yama means mountain. "Storm mountain" refers to the hills on the western outskirts of Kyoto. Arashiyama is both a historic site and a place of beauty that attracts many tourists all over the year.
Not far from the train station was a bridge overlooking a clean, gushing river, and nearby was a beautiful hiking trail where, on top of the mountain, you could overlook the city of Kyoto. The Japanese seem to have a tendency to take care of their environment more than other countries - the trail had almost no litter, the path was beautifully kept, the nature undisturbed and pleasant. It was a little hard-going, but a very enjoyable trail that took us a little way out of the main town and through a wooded area to take a look at the city from on top of the mountain.
It was a gorgeous view, and after being in the stifling, hectic city of Tokyo, where we were living, standing in nature and enjoying a quiet walk was a huge amount of stress relief. Worth taking a look if you enjoy walks and hikes, getting off the beaten path, and enjoying nature away from the noise.
One very famous attraction in Arashiyama is the Bamboo Forest, which you can find close to the hiking trails, and is free to stroll through. It was incredibly peaceful to walk through this forest of bamboo, where the trees clacked together in a unique way that was enjoyable to listen to. This area, too, was immaculately kept, and tourists and even Geisha walked around this attraction with smiles on their faces, taking pictures and enjoying the nature around them. It was hard to be in a bad mood when wandering along this path.
An exciting part of the day in Arashiyama was seeing some real Geisha walking around, wearing kimonos, zori sandals and their hair and make up flawless. It was an exhilarating thing to see that made us really feel like we were experiencing Japanese culture - staying in Tokyo, the big city life was very different to this small, sweet town in western Japan.
It was a bit overwhelming seeing real Geisha; it was as if they'd stepped out of a movie or a travel handbook as they walked along the street in front of us, giving their small, polite smiles and talking quietly to each other. Another experience I'd recommend that you can do in the smaller, more traditional parts of Japan - hunt down some Geisha, and if you're brave enough, perhaps talk to them.
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Restaurants and gift shops
Like any tourist hotspot, Arashiyama had a massive range of gift shops and restaurants. A gift that sells very well in the Kyoto area is a yummy Japanese sweet food called Yatsuhashi, which comes in a pretty gift box in a variety of flavours including chocolate, strawberry and green tea. Other gifts included the usual keyrings, fridge magnets and postcards. We bought a few postcards to send home - the views in Arashiyama are stunning and were worth sharing.
We ate at a restaurant that served some delicious udon and miso soup, and wandered through the streets to take a look at what else the gorgeous town had to offer.
Bikes were available to rent for the day, which was fantastic to see more of the town more quickly, ride alongside the river, or even ride up and down the hiking trails. A one-day rental was 800 yen (around $8 US dollars), and the opening hours were 9:00am - 5:00pm from November until April, and 9:00am - 6:00pm May to October. By renting bikes we could see a lot more of the town in the one day we had there.
Neither of us had been to Arashiyama before, and so we didn't know our way round. Even so, we got to see the bamboo forest, hike some lovely trails and see some Geisha. That being said, we felt like we barely scratched the surface of what Arashiyama had to offer. There's a monkey park that we didn't get to see, more hiking trails, and definitely a lot more restaurants and shops to sample. We will definitely visit that gorgeous little Japanese town again, and it remains very highly recommended to tourists who go to visit the land of the rising sun.