Saturday, 16 February 2013

Japan Day 4 Part 1: Arashiyama, Tenryuji Temple and the Sagano scenic tram

Today, we're heading over to Arashiyama for the beautiful scenery ^.^ Before heading out, we had already packed our belongings and checked out from the hotel as we will be staying at a traditional ryokan for our last night here in Kyoto. We just left our luggage with the hotel staff to collect later in the afternoon once we finish our sightseeing.

From the station nearby our hotel, we took a train to the Hankyu Arashiyama station (220 yen each). Love the old style feel of the station and the station here was quite silent and peaceful, not many people around. Anyway, from here, it's a quite a short walk, about 5 to 10 minutes, to get to the Togetsukyo bridge. We were unsure of the way at first but luckily, we spotted some roadsigns showing us the way in English.

Hankyu Arashiyama station

For those who are unsure, you can basically walk straight on along the road from the entrance of the station as seen in the above right picture. Along the way, there are several roadsigns showing the direction of the bridge, which was really very convenient for us. The river over which the bridge is located is lined with lots of trees, which also includes cherry trees. This place is said to be very popular during the spring when the sakura trees blossom and is also known for the picturesque view in the autumn when the leaves start changing colour.

We spent some time just taking photos and saw some easels and brushes on one side of the riverbank. Seems like someone was busy painting the beautiful scenery. We continued on our journey and crossed the bridge to the town area (?) as I wanted to see the bamboo groves.

Togetsukyo Bridge

There are a number of shops in the area selling souvenirs. Spent some time just browsing along the way to our destination. Not too sure of the way, so just wandered along the way based on the signboards. After a while, we reached the entrance of the Tenryuji Temple and decided to head in to have a look.

Tenryuji Temple is one of the famous temples in Kyoto and is also a world heritage site. The grounds here are very large, and consists mainly of the gardens, within which there are small pavilions for visitors to rest in and enjoy the gardens.

Tenryuji Temple grounds

As with most temples here, there was an entrance fee, which was 300 yen per person. This was only for the garden areas, if you want to head into the buildings, I think the fee was slightly higher.

Just look at the wonderful gardens and pond!! Love how all the gardens here are so well maintained and well kept. And there were lots of beautiful flowers in bloom too. There were little signboards put up, I suppose maybe showing the names of the plants, but too bad neither me nor my mum can understand any of it...

Pretty flowers and trees in the Tenryuji Temple grounds

We got hungry while we were walking around the gardens and since we saw at the entrance that they serve a  vegetarian lunch here, we decided to just go for it. Thus, we headed to the restaurant, which was located within the garden area itself. The lunch here is charged at 3,000 yen per set and my mum and I got one portion each. 

We were shown in to the restaurant by a kindly lady, where we sat on the tatami mats. There are no chairs or tables here, so this might be a little tiring for some..hehe. Really admire the this old couple sitting next to us who were seated on their knees for the whole duration of the meal. It wasn't long before we were served and I have to say, the portions were huge!!

Yummy vegetarian lunch at Tenryuji Temple

There was a variety of different types of vegetables and vegetarian food served, such as tofu. The vegetarian dishes here really differ from what we have in Malaysia. It was really nice and refreshing on a hot day, but we were really stuffed by the end of the meal..hehe. We also each had a pot of tea to ourselves to wash down the delicious meal ^.^

After lunch, we moved on again, and this time we finally got to see the famous Arashiyama bamboo groves. There's a long path lined with bamboo groves, which is just sooo pretty. It's also quite cool here on a hot day. There were quite a number of tourists here admiring the scenery and capturing it on their cameras as well.

There are a number of other small shrines in the surrounding area, which we just popped in to see whenever we came upon any. There were no fees charged at these small shrines and we were free to just wander around, and there were also boards set up in both English and Japanese to introduce the respective shrines. Got a bit lost just wandering around here before we managed to find our next destination in the itinerary.

Arashiyama bamboo grove

Next up on the itinerary was a ride on the Sagano scenic train. The ride along the whole length of this railway takes approximately 25 minutes and there are only four stations in total, starting at the Saga Torokko station and ending at Kameoka Torokko station. We bought one-way tickets each to the Kameoka Torokko station which cost us 600 yen per person. We decided not to get round trip tickets as the scenic tram costs more and since the route taken is the same, didn't see the point in taking the train back again.

There is also an option of getting back to Arashiyama via a boat ride along the river, but it would also cost another 600 yen per person, if I remember correctly. Decided not to go on this ride either due to the cost. If you do decide to take the Sagano scenic tram, do remember to check the schedule beforehand, as it is normally closed on Wednesdays.

Sagano scenic tram and the wonderful view along the route

There are several carriages for the entire tram, and the last carriage is actually an open-air carriage whereby we can admire the scenery without any windows to block the view ^.^ It was also really nice to feel the cool wind blowing when the train was going through the mountains.

After the end of the ride, we took the JR train back to Arashiyama (only 190 yen per person, definitely cheaper than the Sagano tram). We did a little more sightseeing and also stopped by at the Kyoto Music Box Museum. There are a large variety of pretty musical boxes, of all shapes and sizes. It's quite a nice place to spend some time just admiring the intricate works. The only thing I do regret is not getting a musical box on a keychain that was sold there to add to my collection.

That marks the end of our day trip to Arashiyama. We took the train back to Kawaramachi to get our luggage and head to our lodging for the night, Hiiragiya Bekkan. More on that in the next post....

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