Arashiyama Itinerary: Where to Stay & Things to Do in Arashiyama Kyoto

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The district of Arashiyama in Kyoto is a magical place. You’ll find beautiful temples, quiet gardens, and the famously photogenic Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. These are just a few of the many things to do in Arashiyama. Read on for what to do in Arashiyama, as well as tips on food, weather, getting around, the best Arashiyama ryokan, Arashiyama onsen, and more.

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Where to Stay and Things to Do in Arashiyama Kyoto

The area around Arashiyakma Kyoto is one of my favorite places in Japan. It’s much greener and more peaceful than downtown Kyoto. Yet Arashiyama has the traditional Japanese elements people seek: temples, shrines, and nature. Below you’ll find my tips on what to do in Arashiyama, along with tips on Arashiyama restaurants, hotels and more.

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Why Visit Arashiyama?

Most travelers have limited time in their Kyoto itinerary, so I often hear people ask: “Is Arashiyama worth it?” Yes, absolutely. Arashiyama temples, gardens and nature paths are uniquely beautiful. They’re also a nice reprieve from the hustle of downtown Kyoto and Osaka streets. Sure there is so much to see and to do in Japan. You can’t see it all. So what Kyoto attractions will you make time for? We think Arashiyama is worth a day trip from Kyoto, or even just a few hours. It’s close enough that you can make a short visit if time is tight. Yet it’s interesting enough to stay for several days in the area.

Best Time to Visit Arashiyama

kameyama park things to do in arashiyama in kyoto

We think Arashiyama is beautiful in every season, but spring and fall are especially stunning. You get beautiful cherry blossoms in April and spectacular red maples in November. Winter skies are often clear and blue and summer is nice as well, albeit very hot and humid.

Arashiyama Weather

The weather in Arashiyama will usually mirror greater Kyoto weather. However, Arashiyama can be a few degrees cooler thanks to less concrete and closer proximity to mountains. As for crowds in Arashiyama, it’s worth visiting just about any time of year, but one of the busiest times of year is August (summer holidays). I’d also avoid peak weekends around cherry blossoms in the spring and fall foliage in the autumn. You can visit any time, but there will be more people at those times. Crowds tend to be smaller in the winter and the rainy season (late June to mid/late July).

Arashiyama in Winter

Winter is the least crowded time to visit Arashiyama. Hillsides aren’t as colorful after the leaves have fallen, but the Arashiyama temples and bamboo grove are still as magical as ever. Occasional snow can make it even more beautiful, but it usually doesn’t stay for long. Most days are clear and cold. Kyoto in January is the coldest time, with highs are 9ºC/47ºF and lows around freezing. February in Arashiyama brings a little rain/sleet/snow, but still worth visiting.

Arashiyama in Spring

I love spring in Kyoto, but it doesn’t fully arrive until May. Arashiyama weather in March is unpredictable. It could be t-shirt weather, or it could be wind and sleet. However, the first signs of spring in Arashiyama start in March: the plum blossoms. Then the cherry blossoms. Sometimes they arrive early, but in general, cherry blossoms appear in April. That’s when the weather starts to warm to with highs around 19ºC/68ºF and lows around 9ºC/48ºF. That said, this season is still mercurial with wild temperature fluctuations most years. By May, all of Arashiyama is warm and green.

Arashiyama in Summer

Spring weather bleeds into early June but by the end of the month, it’s usually raining several days a week the showers pouring harder in early July. By the end of July in Arashiyama, it’s hot and sticky, with temperatures reaching 33ºC/91ºF and 70% humidity. By August, it’s miserably hot and muggy, reaching 33ºC/91ºF and 90% humidity. It’s like walking through soup. On top of that, it’s Japan’s school holiday time. The good news is there are lots of festivals and activities. The bad news is that it’s crowded everywhere. We usually recommend to avoid visiting Japan in August, but that’s not always an option.

Arashiyama in Fall

Autumn in Arashiyama is my favorite time to visit. The maple trees are a beautiful, blazing red counterpoint to the lush greens of moss and bamboo. The temperature is crisp and the skies remain clear and blue most days. Crowds are also smaller during this season if you avoid weekends when the fall leaves are at their peak.

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Things to Do in Arashiyama

things to do in arashiyama kyoto japan

From beautiful temples and gardens to peaceful walks and hot spring baths, here are some of our favorite things to add to your Arashiyama itinerary.

See the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

For many Japan travel buffs, this is a highlight. For others, this is a letdown. Why? Usually, because they had overly-high expectations for the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Instagram pictures of the place make it look like a vast, enchanted maze of emerald green stalks. The truth is that the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is not that big. Yes, it’s beautiful but much smaller than most people expect. And at many times of the day, tit’s also very crowded. Therefore, temper your expectations of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove…and don’t visit at peak times? That way it can retain some of the magic. 

Best Time to Visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: Early

arashiyama bamboo forest photo shoot

Personally, I think the best time to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is as early as possible. That’s when it’s the least crowded. The last time I visited at 7:30 am and I had the place to myself. Half an hour later there were a dozen or more Instagrammers snapping away. By 9:30 am, the crowds arrived. The issue with visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest so early? The Tenryuji Temple opens at 8:30, and other Arashiyama attractions don’t open until 9 am or 10. What I like to do is visit the Bamboo Grove, then walk in the park and return when the temple opens. 

Second Best Time to Visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: Near Dusk

Another option is to visit just before sunset. This can be around 5 pm in the winter and much later in the summer. If you’re visiting in December, then you could go at night during the Hanatouro Illuminations. For two weeks in December (Dec 13th-22nd in 2019) many Arashiyama temples and the Bamboo Grove will be lit with lanterns for an enchanted view. This should definitely be part of your Arashiyama itinerary if you’re in town at that time.

Marvel at Okochi-Sanso

Okochi-Sanso villa - what to do in Arashiyama in Kyoto

japanese green tea okoshi sanso kyoto garden arashiyama guide

This beautiful garden villa was once the home of a famous Japanese actor. Now it’s open to the public and one of my favorite things to do in Arashiyama. If you want to see an exceptional Japanese garden property, then this is for you. It’s also fun with kids since all the winding stone paths make for a fun little romp (just stay on the paths!). Simply follow the arrows on the footpaths through this beautiful property. Admission is ¥1,000 and completely worth it. A cup of matcha (Japanese green tea) and okashi (traditional Japanese dessert) are included in the price. Just give the ticket at the teahouse after you finish walking around. Located right by the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

Stroll Through Kameyama Koen

This lovely park has a few walking paths and lovely observation points overlooking the river below. It’s worth at least walking to the observation deck since it’s a short walk from the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I’ve heard that there are monkeys on the hillside but I haven’t seen them.

Visit Tenryu-Ji & Other Temples

This is the most famous Arashiyama temple and a beautiful structure. You can skip if you plan to visit lots of temples in Kyoto, but if you’re specifically interested in Zen temples, or just want to see one temple in Arashiyama, then a visit is what to do in Arashiyama for you.

Float Down the Hozugawa River

arashiyama boat tour on hozu river

Along the shore of the Hozugawa River, you’ll see boat rentals. This is especially beautiful in the Autumn with its red maples or in the Spring with the pink sakura blossoms. There are some shorter cheaper tours, but the usual Arasiyama boat tours take around two hours and cover 16 kilometers. The cost is ¥4100 for adults and ¥2700 for kids four to twelve years old. Kids under 4 free. Some discounts for large groups.

Rent a Kimono

Hiring a kimono/yukata for a photo session. It’s quickly becoming one of the most popular things to do in Arashiyama. There are shops all over that will help you select the right look and then help you put it on (believe me, you might need help!). From there, some people walk around town with selfie sticks. But if you’re going this far then you might as well go all the way and hire the on-site photographer as well, right? You can do this yourself by going shop-to-shop. It’s not hard. Just have Google Translate ready in case no English is spoken (likely). Another option is to book it ahead of time. The below 3-hour photo tour from Voyagin includes kimono rental and pictures of you at many famous Arashiyama landmarks.

Book a Photo Shoot: Arashiyama Photoshoot Tour

Ride a Rickshaw

At various points throughout the city, you’ll see rickshaw drivers peddling their services. Look for them near the stations and down by the Hozugawa river near the bridge, or book one ahead of time. If you want an English speaking guide though, it may be best to book ahead. Most English-speaking guides offer pickup at JR Saga Arashiyama station, as well.

From Klook: Arashiyama Tour by Rickshaw

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Take a Tour

To get the most out of the area with limited time, we suggest taking an Arashiyama tour. There are lots of professional tours in the area worth considering. Here are a few we suggest:

Arashiyama Walking Tour with Magical Trip

This 4-hour walking tour is one of the best things to do in the area. It makes stops at the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, the Tesysukyo Bridge, and the UNESCO Heritage site, Tenryuji Temple. It also includes a traditional regional lunch and other stops along the way.

Read More: The Arashiyama Insider Walking Tour

Arashiyama & Nara Day Tour from Osaka

If time is tight and you have only a short time in the region, then consider a day tour from Osaka. This tour from Limon makes the most of a day but you cover a lot of ground — and fast. Guides pick you up in Osaka, drive you to Arashiyama, then to Nara and then back, with a guide. This tour is too fast for my tastes and only recommended for people who want to see Arashiyama and Nara in one day and don’t mind the rush.

Read More: Arashiyama & Nara Day Trip from Osaka

Tenryuji & Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Tour

This half-day Arashiyama tour hits a few of the area’s most famous landmarks while offering the historical context behind them. You visit Tenryuji, the most famous Zen Buddhist temple in Arashiyama. Also Nonomiya Shinto Shrine and my favorite: Okochi Sanso Gardens. The tour ends at Togetsukyo Bridge. More details in the link below.

Read More: Tenryuji & Arashiyama Bamboo Grove Tour

What About the Arashiyama Monkey Park?

When people ask me about visiting the Arashiyama Monkey Park, I say to skip it. In my opinion, there are many better things to do in Kyoto than this. We’re not big fans of animal attractions, in general, to be honest. And unfortunately, Japan’s animal attractions are often not much better than what you might see in less developed parts of Asia. That said, the monkeys aren’t mistreated necessarily and seem relatively tame. For example, you feel less prone to attack than in, says, Bali’s Monkey Forest. However, it’s a 20-30 minute walk uphill just to pay to feed pellets to some unenthusiastic animals. So if you have the time and really, really want to see a monkey up close, then go for it. Otherwise, I’d give it a pass.

Arashiyama Station Attractions

kyoto arashiyama station kimono forest fountain

There are three train stations with Arashiyama in the name, and I will refer to them by the train lines that each uses. There is Hankyu Arashiyama Station and Randen Arashiyama Station — also called Arashiyama Station. These two are small and closer to Arashiyama attractions. Then there is JR Saga Arashiyama Station, a much larger station but a short walk from the downtown. It’s this Arashiyama Station where people with JR Rail Passes will want to arrive. Some of these stations are a mini-attraction themselves. Here’s what we recommend.

JR Saga Arashiyama Station

This is the most direct route from Kyoto station. It’s included in the JR Rail Pass, so many travelers will access Arashiyama from here. Right next door to the station is 19th Century Hall. Inside you’ll find some great old train engines both inside and outside the station, as well as some food and drink options. There’s also a miniature train set that’s as large as a tennis court. It costs 520 for adults to enter though, but there’s a miniature one in front that operates on 100yen coins.

The Sagano Scenic Railway

The JR Saga-Arashiyama Station also connects with the Sagano Scenic Railway (a.k.s. 2he “Sagano Romantic Train”). This line has large windows that follow the Katsura river and gorge. It’s a great way to see fall foliage and other beautiful aspects of Arashiyama’s natural beauty. The route takes around half an hour. The line can be rather long.

Get Your Tickets Now: The Kyoto Sagano Scenic Railway 

Randen Arashiyama Station

This is my favorite Arashiyama train station. First of all, you arrive by these cute, electric rail trains that are only one or two cars long. There are some great snack shops in the station (matcha ice cream for me, please) as well as a few lovely places to sit, relax and people watch. One of those places to sit is an actual foot bath for tired feet. It can be too hot for the uninitiated, but a lovely place to relax after a day of walking.

Kimono Forest Kyoto

kyoto arashiyama station kimono forest

This lovely little art installation runs along the side of Randen Arashiyama Station. Known as the “Kimono Forest,” it’s just a small path of columns wrapped in traditional Japanese kimono fabrics. It’s not much more to it than the fabrics and a small fountain, but a great place for a picture or three.

Arashiyama Restaurants & Cafes

Need a bite to eat? There are lots of great restaurants in Arashiyama. Some great cafes and coffee shops, as well. Here are a few we recommend. 

Arashiyama Restaurants

arashiyama restaurants

Many of these places are mobbed at traditional lunchtimes, so consider arriving early (11 am) or you may need to wait in line. You could try a later time like 2 pm, but I can’t guarantee and each Arashiyama restaurant has its own scheduling so check to confirm their opening hours. 

  • Yudofu Sagano: Fantastic Kyoto-style multi-course tofu set meals in one of the most beautiful settings in Arashiyama.
  • Arashiyama Yoshimura: Traditional noodle shop next to the river and bridge. 
  • Steak Otsuka: Incredible wagyu, hirai and murasawa steaks. I suggest going way before they open and reserving.
  • Pizzeria Lugara: Few people visit Kyoto for a slice, but if you’re with picky eaters or just need a break from the Japanese diet, this is some of the best pizza in Kyoto.

Arashiyama Cafes

arashiyama restaurants & cafes

  • % Arabica Arashiyama: One of the most popular coffee shops in Arashiyama. Part of that is marketing (the cups are cool) and the location (lots of Instagram shots of their “%” cup with the river and bridge in the background. But is the coffee good? I’m no aficionado, but I liked mine. That said, I’ve only drunk it once because I see no need to wait in long lines for a coffee. It’s a small place that’s really for takeout as seating space is mostly just a bench area in front. 
  • eX Café: This Arashiyama cafe is in a traditional building close to the Randen Arashiyama Station. Lots of cool murals inside and out. Some rooms have tables and chairs, while others are traditional Japanese tatami mats. Prepare to take off your shoes if you want to sit here. A great place to try traditional Japanese desserts, too. 
  • Togetsu Café: Nice cafe/restaurant near the bridge. Good selection of Japanese desserts and small meals. 

Arashiyama Onsen & Arashiyama Ryokan

If you’re visiting in autumn, winter or spring, then I highly recommend taking a dip in an Arashiyama onsen (hot spring). Or even staying overnight in an Arashiyama ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). Ryokan usually have their own onsen or public baths, which are included in the price.

  • Tenzan-no-yu Onsen: This is one of the best onsens in Arashiyama and Kyoto in general. Pumped from 1,200 meters below, the calcium chloride water is believed by many to have various health benefits. They have a variety of tubs to choose from, and it’s only about 10-15 minutes from Randen Arashiyama Station.
  • Fufu no Yu: Another great Arashiyama onsen, this one near the river and a short walk from Hankyu Arashiyama station. Several indoor tubes and a nice rotemburo (outdoor tub) along with saunas and cold baths.

Where to Stay in Arashiyama

arashiyama ryokan & arashiyama onsen

For the full Kyoto experience, then consider a night at an Arashiyama Ryokan or hotel. That includes time in an authentic Arashiyama onsen as well as ta night in a traditional Japanese Inn. Ryokan in Japan usually have their own onsen areas, as well as some of the best food in Japan. Some travelers prefer not to get naked in from of others in an onsen. Then there are those of you with tattoos, who will not be allowed in public onsen. For you, there are many Arashiyama onsen that offer private hot spring tubs.

Arashiyama Benkei

One of the best ryokan in Kyoto. Arashiyama Benkei sits on the Katsura river not far from the Togetsukyo Bridge. Indoor and outdoors tubs have natural spring water and some rooms come with private onsen tubs. Rooms range from 17mto 90m2.

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Rangetsu

For a luxury ryokan experience, it’s hard to go wrong with Rangetsu. Rooms are smaller and accommodate fewer people than Arashiyama Benkei but it’s a true Japanese ryokan experience. Both indoor and outdoor onsen and some rooms with private onsens tubs on the balcony overlooking the river.

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Hanaikada

Another exquisite Arashiyama ryokan by the river. Rooms range from 25-60m2 and some have private open-air tubs. Some rooms have Western beds.

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Japaning Hotel Liv Ranrokaku

An Arashiyama Ryokan for more modern touches. You’ll get futons and onsen waters but with more light wood and marble floors. Some rooms have Jacuzzis.

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Arashiyama Hotels, Apartments & Hostels

Ranzan

This 4-star Arashiyama hotel is located right between the Tenryuji Temple and the Hozugawa River. Rooms range from 21-67m2, with both Western-style and Japanese-style rooms available. You still get the onsen experience like the best Arashiyama ryokans. Just keep in mind that the temperature is how most Japanese guests like it, which means HOT!

Check Availability: Ranzan at Booking.com

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Nagi Kyoto Arashiyama

One of the newest Arashiyama hotels, Nagi Kyoto Arashiyama opened in the summer of 2018. If you want a Western room with Japanese class, then this is where to stay in Arashiyama. All rooms are around 38m2 but feel snug thanks to huge beds. Some rooms have sofa beds as well. Located just a few minutes north of the JR Saga Arashiyama station, it’s perfectly located for people using the JR Rail Pass.

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The GrandWest Arashiyama

Another (relatively) new kid on the block, The GrandWest Arashiyama opened in 2017 and is a nice mix of traditional and modern Kyoto style. Rooms run between 50-65m2 with large beds. Also a lovely roof deck for the sunset.

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Riverside Arashiyama

These quirky little Arashiyama apartment rentals sit snugly in the quiet neighborhood between the Hankyu Arashiyama Station and Togetsukyo Bridge. Their Western-style rooms are clean, spacious, and spare. As apartment rentals, there is a microwave and fridge but no meals available. The cooking facilities are lacking, but plenty of places to eat nearby. The only thing really missing is laundry facilities.

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Mulan Arashiyama Hostel

A variety of accommodation options at this hostel in Arashiyama. You have Western and Japanese-style private rooms as well as bunks in a dorm. There’s also a kitchen, library and video game/comics room for use of the guests. Super clean for a hostel.

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How to Get to Arashiyama

arashiyama temples

Arashiyama Kyoto is on the city’s west side and it fairly easy to access from within Kyoto and from other major cities as well. Remember that there are three main train stations in Arashiyama and different ways to get there from various parts of the country. If you want to use a JR Rail Pass, then you want to arrive via JR Saga-Arashiyama Station (see below). 

  • Kyoto to Arashiyama: there are multiple ways to get to Arashiyama from Kyoto downtown. The easiest is via Kyoto Station on the JR Sagano Line (Purple). Kyoto Station to Arashiyama takes approx. 20 minutes. 
  • Osaka to Arashiyama: From Umeda station, take the Hankyu Kyoto line to Katsura Station and transfer to the Arashiyama Line. This Osaka to ASrashiyama route takes approx. 50 minutes. 
  • Tokyo to Arashiyama: The the shinkansen to Kyoto Station. Transfer in Kyoto Station to the JR Sagano Line (Purple). Kyoto Station to Arashiyama takes approx. 20 minutes. Total time (Tokyo to Arashiyama) takes anywhere from three to 6+ hours, depending on which trains you take.
  • Yokohama to Arashiyama: See Tokyo to Arashiyama above.
  • Nara to Arashiyama: From Nara Station, take the Kintetsu Nara Line to Kyoto Station (approx 30-45min). Then transfer to the JR Sagano Line (Purple). Kyoto Station to Arashiyama takes approx. 20 minutes. 

What’s on Your Arashiyama Itinerary?

Arashiyama gardens - fall in arashiyama japan

Out of all the things to do in Arashiyama, what would you put on your Arashiyama itinerary? The bamboo grove? The temples? A hike or a boat ride? Perhaps an Arashiyama tour? Let us know what you’d want to do, and if there’s something missing from our tips, let us know!

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