On the 11th November, my mum and I made an early morning journey from Tokyo to Kyoto. We arrived at about 9:30am, and headed straight towards Arashiyma, hoping to catch the tail-end of the annual Momoji Festival. As we had JR Passes we took the line to Sega-Arashiyama station, a less than 20 minute train ride. What awaited us can only be described as organised mayhem!
The streets of Arashiyama were filled to the brim with tourist from anywhere and everywhere. Cars could barely make their way through, as tourists couldn’t actually fit on the walkways and had to walk on the roads! After making the almost precarious journey from the station, we arrived at Togetsukyo Bridge, the location of the festival, unfortunately we were too late and only caught glimpses of what seemed like an incredible time. In saying that, the bridge itself was spectacular. The old bridge set against the backdrop of Autumn colours, it was well worth brushing shoulders with visitors and cars alike. From there we headed to Tenryuji, considered one of the largest and most spectacular temples in Arashiyama. Entry costs from 500 yen, and we decided to skip going inside and just viewed the temple from outside.
Besides we had more exciting visits on the mind – the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. While we were unable to hear the fabled whispers of wind going through the bamboo, I had a fantastic time walking through the paths of the grove. Some tourist rented rickshaws to be pulled through private areas of the grove, however it was a bit pricey and my mum and I were worried if the guy pulling the cart could hold our weight! So we opted to explore the grove by foot, despite the crowds it was quite a peaceful walkthrough. Paths were wide enough that you weren’t jostled around and there was space to take photos of yourself and travel partners, in the appropriate areas. It was quite funny / concerning to see tourists jump into closed areas just for a picture!
Our final stop was to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. We arrived at the park at 3:30pm, and saw a sign saying visitors were no longer let in a 4, and the park completely closed at 4:30pm. Initially we were nervous as we had heard the climb up to the park was quite long but it was only about 25 minutes. The walk up can be quite difficult, there were some parts where we were both huffing and puffing, but it was well worth it. Even if you’re not a fan of monkeys, there are some really spectacular views of Arashiyama and the autumn leaves at the peak. The monkeys themselves were quite interesting to watch, but what I was most impressed by was the awareness of the park stuff. They were constantly watching the monkeys and visitors to make sure everything was ok. At one point a tourist sat down next to a monkey and tried to pat it, and a staff member ran over to him and yelled at him to stop. Although to be a bit pointed, there were heaps of signs saying not to do that, so I’m not sure why that guy tried to in the first place!
Overall, the day out at Arashiyama was an interesting one. It’s kind of on everyone’s bucket list for Kyoto, so you can’t NOT go. However, I don’t think I would ever go again. As someone who is easily overwhelmed by crowds, the day was a struggle and I often needed to retire to a toilet or quiet cafe just to re-orientate myself. However, I will say the day was worth the effort just so I could see a baby monkey!
As many travel blogs will recommend, it’s best to go very early to try and avoid the crowds. Also try to go on a weekday, as our experience on a Sunday was absolutely manic.
Don’t go into the first restaurant you see, travel further down and see what you can find. We ended up going inside a museum’s cafe and had a lovely lunch. There were only a few other people there, and the restaurant overlooked a stone garden which was calming to look at.