How to Pass an Autumn Afternoon in Arashiyama

03 May 2015


When I left for Japan I really had no solid plans. I had my flight into Tokyo and a flight to leave out of Hiroshima 18 days later. For those days in between I was simply winging it. This openness allowed me to go on so many adventures but also permitted for calm, slow, reflective travel.

One afternoon when I was in the Kyoto region I decided to spend the day at Arashiyama.

Coming here was pure happenstance. I hadn't come across Arashiyama at all when I was planning out things I would like to do during my trip to Japan. It wasn't until my couch surfing host from Kyoto mentioned it that I had ever even heard of it.

Arashiyaima. My tongue had trouble with the word despite having studied Japanese for four years. What was there to do in this small district on the outskirts of Kyoto?

See small town Japan
Arashiyama- Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan

This hamlet of Kyoto is adorable on its own. Step off the main tourist road and wander the streets of small town Japan for bucolic scenery and humble beauty.

 Meander through a bamboo forest
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan

This would have to be the most iconic thing that Arashiyama is known for. A trip to Kyoto is not complete without a stroll beneath the towering bamboo stalks.

Eat seasonal treats
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan
Arayashima - Kyoto, Japan

You might know the dango emoji as the little stick with pink, white, and green balls on it. This is actually the spring time version of this sweet snack. Pictured above is the autumn dango which has a delicious maple flavor. There are several vendors around the street selling these as well as roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes.

For a full meal, stop by one of the boat restaurants on the river. Slip off your shoes and enjoy a meal by the water on a traditional raised platform of tatami mats. I had warm rice wine and nabe (Japanese hot pot). Perfect for a cool, autumn afternoon.

Wander the temples
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan

Walking around Arashiyama you can't help but stumble upon Buddhist and Shinto temples that are at least a couple hundred years old. The autumn colors only enhance their ancient charm.

Feed wild monkeys
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan

For a couple yen you can climb to the top of Iwatayama which is home to hundreds of wild macaques. There's a caged viewing area for feeding the monkeys but otherwise there is no barrier between you. Admittedly it was a little bit scary since there were signs everywhere saying not to make direct eye contact with the monkeys!

Rent a paddle boat
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama - Kyoto, Japan

You can hire someone to paddle for you or do it yourself. Renting a paddle boat is a great way to travel back into the gorge and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage or to view the famous Togestukyo bridge, an icon of Arashiyama.

What would you do with a day in small town Japan?

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