When visiting Japan to see the autumn colors, Arashiyama and Sagano in Western Kyoto offer extraordinary sites to view the stunning foliage. With a myriad of options, it's quite difficult to decide where to go in Kyoto. Due to closeness, convenience, and colorful views, here are the top five places to explore the stunning autumn colors of Kyoto.
Starting Your Journey
Arashiyama and Sagano can be accessed by Hankyu Railway. However, there’s one train in particular that will take you to view the scenic and traditional city of Kyoto in style: Hankyu Railway’s Kyo-Train. The Kyo-Train is specially designed to evoke a classic Japanese atmosphere and is covered by the HANKYU TOURIST PASS.
Each section of the train offers its passengers a different experience with themed decorations. Cars one and two inspire images of blooming orchids; cars three and four offer a nostalgic feeling of a classic Kyoto town house with wooden booths and tatami backrests; cars five and six offer a relaxing atmosphere of green hemp leaves.
The Kyo-train runs from Umeda to Juso, Awaji, Katsura, and Kawaramachi.
Only running on weekends and national holidays, the Kyo-train allows passengers to feel as if they are taking a journey into the past to Japan’s ancient capital city, Kyoto. Once you arrive at Arashiyama Station, you will be able to hit the following spots in no time.
Arashiyama's Ancient Bridge
After an eight-minute walk north of Arashiyama Station, you will feel the history that resides here as you encounter the Togetsu-kyo Bridge. Built in the Kamakura Period (1185 - 1333), the bridge received its name, “moon crossing,” by Emperor Kameyama. Spanning 155m (500 ft) over the Katsura River, rickshaws are pulled across the wooden structure, which is supported by concrete. The bridge allows visitors to feel as if they are traveling through Kyoto’s past. It is one of Arashiyama’s notable landmarks and it can’t be missed.
World-famous Bamboo Groove
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is an approximately 400m (1300 ft) walkway surrounded by thickets of bamboo. It is a 20-minute walk from Arashiyama Station. Despite the crowds that it attracts, the tints of green along the naturally colored path allow visitors to feel at ease in nature. Throughout the cool fall season, you will also see people of all ages wearing kimono, emphasizing the Bamboo Grove’s refreshing traditional Japanese atmosphere.
There is also a rickshaw route which provides picturesque views within the bamboo forest. During the later hours of the day, the pathway is lit to offer a romantic stroll that cannot be experienced anywhere else.
Arashiyama’s Zen Temple
Tenryu-ji Temple is a Zen temple established in 1339 by Ashikaga Takauji. It is a registered UNESCO World Heritage site. Entry into the building allows guests to rest and enjoy hallways and tatami rooms embellished in traditional Zen decor with views of the garden.
The garden, which survived through centuries, is a must-see as it offers guests stunning views of autumn leaves as well as a central pond surrounded by rocks. Viewing the building from the foot of the pond emphasizes the beauty of Arashiyama’s colors in the fall seasons. Tenryu-ji is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm in the summer and 8:30 am to 5:00 pm in the winter. Although you can enter both the garden and temple for a combined 800 yen, there are 500 yen and 300 yen tickets for the garden and the temple separately. Make sure you hold onto your ticket to receive these prices.
Nonomiya Shrine, found within the bamboo grove at Arashiyama, is a Shinto shrine that is known as a place to receive blessings for love.
It is popular among couples or people seeking a lover and it is associated with enmusubi (the connection between a man and a woman). People believe that coming to shrines like Nonomiya Shrine will ensure a happy relationship through divine blessings from gods. Here you can buy lucky love charms which are sold for 1,000 yen.
A nine-minute walk from Nonomiya Shrine and through the bamboo forest is a temple built on the mountainside called Jojakko-ji Temple. During this time of the year, the pathway leading to the entrance is lined with red, orange, and yellow leaves. Walking under the sanmon (main gate), it will feel like you are entering a beautiful garden rather than a temple. Because there are no borders that separate the buildings and the forest, Jojakko-ji Temple is also known as a temple without walls.
Every step towards the top of Jojakko-ji Temple reveals another beautiful scene of Arashiyama and Sagano City. As visitors make their way up to the pagoda, there is an observatory where you can relax and admire the autumn foliage. There is a 500 yen entrance fee and the observatory is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
From a small city of Hawaii now living in my favorite city Osaka for 3 years, Chris is now touring Japan and seeking for life's answers through his travels. Come follow him on his adventures!