In beautiful Kyoto: Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari

If you could live in any foreign city for a year, which one would it be? For me, it would have to be Kyoto.

The first time I got to set foot in this Japanese city, I was smitten. Centuries-old heritage sites, picturesque tree-lined paths, charming alleys lined by traditional wooden houses, idyllic-looking neighborhoods–every turn seemed to reveal something old and beautiful. The former imperial capital also sits close to nature, surrounded by many mountains, but like other Japanese cities, it maintains the usual modern trappings (all you need to do is arrive in Kyoto Station to see it). And while it can get crowded during spring and autumn, Kyoto still possesses a relaxed atmosphere, a calm murmur compared to a frenetic throb of a metropolis like Tokyo.

On our fourth day in Japan, in our trip last month, we took the train out of Osaka to spend the entire Saturday in Kyoto. The two places we didn’t get to see the first time we went there were the Fushimi Inari shrine and the Arashiyama area, both places that do nothing to diminish Kyoto’s reputation as one of the most culturally-rich cities in the country.

Dreamy Arashiyama

Dreamy bamboo grove in Arashiyama

Arashiyama area (or Sagano) is a charming district that lies at the base of Kyoto’s western mountains. The charm sets in the minute you get off the Hankyu Kyoto Line and go out of the Hankyu Arashiyama Station. It’s a small town train station and when you get out, the streets are pretty quiet and empty except for the throngs of tourists such as yourself spilling out of the station. There’s a tree-lined avenue to the side, which you take on foot or with a bike to lead you to a small bridge.  After you cross the bridge, you face a riverside park covered in pebbles. (So wear comfy walking shoes and not heels as I saw some tourists were wearing. Eeep!)

karashiyama-bridgeFrom there you can cross the Togetsukyo Bridge and see the mountains as its backdrop (they’re said to look prettier during autumn when the foliage changes in different colors). Across the bridge, just cross the road straight ahead. The streets on this side of the bridge are, like other streets leading up to popular temples and attractions, predictably lined with several shops and restaurants. It was such a cold day that P and I decided to have a bowl of hot udon soup and onigiri (rice ball) before making our way to the bamboo groves.

At the start

Walking at the beginning of the pathway that crosses the bamboo groves

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Minus the filter...

The bamboo grove (minus the filter) still looking as dreamy as I imagined it in my head. One of the few moments when the path was not crowded with other tourists

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Tenryu-ji

From the bamboo groves, we went to the Tenryu-ji temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is ranked among Kyoto’s five great Zen temples

From the western outskirts of Kyoto, we head down to Kyoto Station for a ramen lunch in its Ramen-koji (street) recreation on the 10th floor (more about it on another post). Afterward, we took the JR line down to Inari station, which is conveniently located right across Fushimi Inari Shrine. Dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice of the Japanese, the shrine has been around since 794.

If one of the most recognizable (and photographed) places in Arashiyama is the bamboo grove; in Fushimi Inari Shrine it has to be the thousands of very photogenic vermilion torii gates. The torii gate covered pathways are located behind the shrine’s main grounds and lead up to Mount Inari, which is considered sacred by the Japanese. All those torii gates are donations with the donor’s name inscribed on each gate; the small sized gates already fetch hundreds of thousands of yen and the bigger gates run to the millions.

Minus the filter...

The Fushimi Inari shrine grounds

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fushimi1

Foxes are considered to be Inari’s messengers so you will see many fox statues on the shrine grounds

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Fushimi

One of the torii gate-covered pathways going up Mount Inari

See the cat

The torii gates get larger farther up the trail… oh, and do you see the cat?

How to get to Arashiyama: Since we were staying in the Kita-ku area in Osaka, we went to Umeda (Hankyu) station and took the Hankyu Kyoto Line, which ends at the Hankyu Arashiyama  Station. It takes almost 50 minutes and if you’re also coming from Osaka, is the better option than taking the JR Kyoto line as the Hankyu Kyoto line is a more direct route. 

From Kyoto Station, the most direct option is to take the JR Sagano line and get off Saga-Arashiyama station. You can also take bus no. 28 from Kyoto Station, or from Keihan Sanjo Station, take Bus 11

How to get to Fushimi Inari: From Kyoto station, take the JR Nara line to the JR Inari Station, which is just right across the shrine. If you’re coming from the Higashiyama area, you can take the Keihan Railway and get off Fushimi Inari station.

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14 thoughts on “In beautiful Kyoto: Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari

  1. Another set of stunning pictures – I love the cat! Were there lots about?

    Kyoto looks far more palatable than Osaka. Japanese friends keep recommending it above other cities. Plus, anime like Kyousogiga riff on the city and its architecture so much. The vibe I’m getting from these pictures is much more chilled and relaxed. Were those bamboo groves quiet?

    • Yes! We came across around four fat cats while walking up the path, they were all so cute 🙂 and the bamboo groves can be really quiet when you find yourself alone for a few seconds.

      I don’t think I’ve seen that anime you mentioned… Will try to look for it if it has something to do with Kyoto, hehe. Right now, I’m watching Yowamushi Pedal (where there’s a Kyoto team hehe)

      • Kyousogiga is fun and set in an alternate reality Kyoto. I’ve heard good things about Yowamushi Pedal. I’m currently enjoying Knights of Sidonia and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, the latter of which is God-tier entertainment.

        Happy Easter 🙂

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    • We got there around 11 or just before lunch and there were already lots of people. I think we spent just 2 hours there–getting a quick lunch, walking through the bamboo forest and seeing the nearby temple. We really couldn’t linger cause we had to meet some people in Fushimi at a certain time.

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