Accompanied by a nationally-licensed and experienced multilingual guide, explore the area of Arashiyama and Sagano, where aristocrats once unwound in their villas more than 1,000 years ago. Enjoy a full-day walking tour of Kyoto while one of our expert guides introduces both modern and traditional sides of this dynamic but ancient Japanese city.
The highlights of this tour include the scenic countryside views from Togetsukyo bridge; Tenryu-ji temple with its beautiful traditional gardens; the enchanting world from within the Bamboo Grove; and Jojakko-ji Temple with its breathtaking green moss. During the tour, you will also visit some secret spots unfamiliar to the usual tourists. Enjoy the walk and delicious food while learning about Japanese culture and history.
Our guides are looking forward to arranging a tour that’s best for you, so be sure to visit Arashiyama and Sagano!
Note*1: Please select your must-see spots from a list in the tour information to create your customized itinerary.
Note*2: This special tour will be conducted with public transportation and cruising taxi as stated in the tour information, NOT including private vehicle. Your guide will pick you up at the meeting point on foot. If you need a private vehicle, please feel free to ask us and we will estimate an additional cost for you.
Note*3: The Nationally-licensed Tour Guide-Interpreter certification is issued by the Japanese government requires good knowledge and understanding of Japanese culture and history.
Arashiyama (嵐山) is a pleasant, touristy district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons.
The Togetsukyo Bridge is Arashiyama's well known, central landmark. Many small shops, restaurants and other attractions are found nearby, including Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama's famous bamboo groves and pleasure boats that are available for rent on the river.
The Togetsukyo Bridge (lit. "Moon Crossing Bridge") is Arashiyama's most iconic landmark. It was originally built during the Heian Period (794-1185) and most recently reconstructed in the 1930s. The bridge looks particularly attractive in combination with the forested mountainside in the background. A riverside park with dozens of cherry trees is located just adjacent to the bridge.
The walking paths that cut through the bamboo groves make for a nice walk or bicycle ride. The groves are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth. The bamboo has been used to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats at local workshops for centuries.
Saihoji (西芳寺, Saihōji), more commonly known as Kokedera (苔寺), is one of Kyoto's Unesco World Heritage Sites. Entrance to this temple requires a reservation made well in advance.
Kokedera means Moss Temple, referring to the temple garden's estimated 120 different varieties of moss. Visitors to the temple can walk through this spectacular garden, which has strongly influenced subsequent Japanese garden design.
Kokedera was originally the site of Prince Shotoku's villa before becoming a temple in the Nara Period. In 1339, the temple was renovated and converted into a Zen temple under the priest Muso Soseki. Muso is also credited with creating Kokedera's gardens.
Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮, Shugakuin Rikyū) was built in the 17th century by Emperor Gomizuno and is now managed by the Imperial Household Agency. It consists of the Upper, Middle and Lower Villa areas, each featuring gardens and buildings of the traditional imperial style.
Shugakuin's name comes from a former temple built on the same site in the tenth century. The Imperial Villa was constructed between 1655 and 1659, with a palace for Gomizuno's daughter added ten years later. More recently in 1964, the surrounding farmlands were bought by the Imperial Household Agency. They are leased out to local farmers who continue to work the fields.
Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮, Katsura Rikyū) is one of the finest examples of Japanese architecture and garden design. The villa and garden in their present form were completed in 1645 as the residence for the Katsura Family, members of Japan's Imperial Family.
Visiting Katsura Imperial Villa requires joining a tour. The tour follows the garden's circular walking trail around the central pond. Palace buildings can be viewed only from the outside, and photographing is allowed only from designated spots. Tours in English are available.
Kurama (鞍馬) is a rural town in the northern mountains of Kyoto City, less than one hour from the city centre. Kurama is best known for its temple Kurama-dera and its hot spring, one of the most easily accessible hot springs from Kyoto.
Outdoor and indoor baths can be enjoyed at Kurama Onsen, a ryokan located at the upper end of the town of Kurama. It can be reached in a 10-minute walk from the train station along the town's only road or along a nature trail following the river. Staying guests can use the baths for free, while daytrippers pay 2500 yen to use all of the baths or 1000 yen for just the outdoor bath (rotemburo).
Yoshiminedera (吉峰寺) is a temple of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism located in Kyoto's western mountains. Similar to Kiyomizudera on the opposite side of town, Yoshiminedera is built along the mountain side and looks out onto Kyoto. The temple grounds are spacious and there are many buildings distributed up the mountain side.
A priest from Enryakuji, named Gesan, established Yoshiminedera as a personal retreat in 1029. In 1467 the temple was destroyed in the Onin War but was rebuilt in 1621. The temple's main objects of worship are a Kannon statue carved by Gesan and a Kannon statue given to the temple by Emperor Gosuzaku in 1042.
Daikakuji (大覚寺) is a large temple in the northern part of Kyoto's Sagano district. It was originally built in the early 800s as the detached palace of Emperor Saga, who thoroughly enjoyed spending time in this calm area on the outskirts of Kyoto. Thirty years after the emperor's death, the palace was converted into a temple and has since been one of the highest ranked temples of Shingon Buddhism.
Daikakuji has had a role in several significant historical events. A succession of retired emperors reigned from here, and in the 12th century the temple hosted peace talks that reunited the Northern and Southern Imperial Courts after 50 years of civil war. Daikakuji is also featured in the Tale of Genji, the first novel in Japanese literature. Today, the temple is one of the best places to still feel the ancient court atmosphere described in the novel and is often used for filming historical dramas.
Daikakuji is a temple of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. Formerly the residence of an emperor, the buildings were converted into a temple in 876. During its history the temple traditionally had members of the imperial family serve as the head priest. Beside the main temple buildings there is a large pond and a pagoda.
This is the former villa of the popular actor Okochi Denjiro (1896-1962), located in the back of Arashiyama's bamboo groves. Okochi Sanso consists of several different gardens and buildings, including living quarters, tea houses and gates. The buildings can only be viewed from the outside. Admission includes matcha green tea with a snack.
Located in the Arashiyama mountains, the entrance to the monkey park can be found just south of the Togetsukyo Bridge. After hiking uphill for about ten minutes, visitors will find an open area with over a hundred monkeys roaming freely. There are also nice views down onto the city.
Ranked among Kyoto's five great Zen temples, Tenryuji is the largest and most impressive temple in Arashiyama. Founded in 1339 at the beginning of the Muromachi Period (1338-1573), the temple is one of Kyoto's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In addition to its temple buildings, there are attractive gardens with walking paths.
Similar to Jojakkoji, Nisonin Temple is a hillside temple with slightly larger and imposing buildings. A generally understated atmosphere on the temple grounds is partly due to the overhanging trees along approach. Founded in the mid 9th century, Nisonin is a temple of the Tendai sect. There are views over the city from the upper grounds.
Gioji is even more nestled into the forest than Jojakkoji and Nisonin. It is known for its moss garden that is punctuated with tall maple trees. The temple's entrance gate and small main hall have thatched roofs. The latter has an attractive round window looking into the gardens.
Adashino Nenbutsuji is located at the end of the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street. The temple was founded in the early 9th century when the famous monk Kobo Daishi placed stone statues for the souls of the dead here. Today, the temple grounds are covered by hundreds of such stone statues. In the back of the temple, a short path leads through a bamboo forest.
Another ten-minute walk north of the similarly named Adashino Nenbutsuji, the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple is famous for its 1200 stone statues of Rakan, devoted followers of Buddhism, each with a different facial expression. Created relatively recently in the 1980s and early 1990s, the many statues stand across the temple grounds which cover part of a forested mountain slope.
Kibune (貴船) is a small town in a forested valley in the northern mountains of Kyoto City, which developed around Kifune Shrine. According to legend, a goddess traveled in a boat from Osaka all the way up the river into the mountains north of Kyoto, and Kifune Shrine was built at the site where her boat journey had come to an end.
Kifune Shrine is dedicated to the god of water and rain and believed to be the protector of those at sea. Here you can obtain a unique type of fortune written on paper slips (omikuji) that reveal their messages when dipped into water. Okunomiya, the inner sanctum and original site of Kifune Shrine, lies about one kilometer further up the valley. It has a large rock, known as the boat stone, which is said to be where the goddess' yellow boat is buried.
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