If you’re heading to Japan, then a stop over to the mesmerising Arashiyama district is a must. Here is a day-long itinerary to make the most of your time there. By Bayar Jain

While Kyoto is largely filled with temples and shrines – as is the entire country of Japan – Arashiyama, located on the outskirts of Kyoto, is nature’s way of showing off. So glorious is its beauty that the entire region is a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty by the Japanese government. Sometimes referred to the mountain across Ōi River, which forms a backdrop to the district, Arashiyama thrives under the shade of bamboo groves, and hilltop villas. Dotted around this splendour are temples, old imperial villas, and historical sites, many of which are National Treasures, or have been recognised as World Heritage sites. Here is how you should spend 24 hours in this pristine region. Be warned though! Comfortable walking shoes would be your best friends.

9:00 am

Begin your day by catching a train to Arashiyama Station and walking down to the Monkey Park in Iwatayama. Located only 10 minutes away from the station, this park doubles as a haven of wild Japanese macaque monkeys. As you walk along the winding, concrete stairs and natural pathways of the park, you’ll find naughty monkeys running around and swinging from branch to branch. On reaching the end of the trail, the designated staff welcomes you and congratulates you for your successful hike. However, their words of encouragement are no match for the expansive views of Kyoto. While here, relax on benches or feed the furry creatures peanuts, bananas or dried fruit – all of which are available for sale at the top.

10:30 am

Next, walk down to the Togetsukyo Bridge, an iconic landmark built during the Heian Period (794-1185). The name Togetsu, means moon crossing, stems from a tale involving Emperor Kameyama from the Kamakura period. During a boating party under a full moon, the emperor thought the moon looked like it was crossing the bridge and named it after this spectacle. The current bridge, however, was reconstructed in the 1930s. Although the bridge is a beauty in itself, it looks particularly more attractive when viewed against the forested mountainous backdrop. When here, take a moment to soak in views of the leisurely Katsura River flowing calmly below.

11:00 am

Located just five minutes away, the Tenryū-Ji Temple should be your next stop. Registered as a World Heritage Site, the Tenryū-Ji Temple was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji primarily to venerate Gautama Buddha, and its first chief priest was Musō Soseki. Once an enormous temple complex comprising of more than a hundred sub-temples, today, only a few structures remain. The gardens, however, have retained their original grandeur. The landscape gardens here feature a central pond surrounded by rocks, pine trees and the forested Arashiyama mountains. Once done, exit Tenryū-Ji Temple through the back entrance.

11:45 am

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The sound of swaying stalks in this stunning grove has been named a governmentally recognized sound. ⁠ ⁠ Less than an hour from Kyoto, Japan, the towering Sagano Bamboo Forest is an almost shocking contrast to the urbanity surrounding it. Wooden paths weave through the dense thicket of tall bamboo stalks that reach dozens of feet into the sky, creating a canopy. As the wind passes through the tightly packed plants, the wood bends and creaks, the leaves rustle, and the trunks knock together, creating a peaceful sound like almost nothing else. ⁠ ⁠ The meditative natural noise is so lovely, in fact, that Japan’s Ministry of the Environment designated the location’s aural pleasures as one of the country’s “100 Soundscapes of Japan,” an initiative designed to encourage the local population to get out and appreciate the country’s acoustic wonders. The result is that the forest can be remarkably crowded by locals and tourists alike, but during its quieter moments, the sound is breathtaking.⁠ ⁠ 📷 Photo by @cory.s.martin

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As the weather begins to cool, head to the bamboo groves – an iconic spot of Japan. The moment you step in, towering, surreal bamboo shoots embrace you. The walking paths here cut through the greens, while the gentle swaying of the leaves echoes. Make it a point to stop by and strike a pose. Your Instagram feed is sure to boom!

12:30 pm

Head back to Arashiyama Station and rent a cycle for your next stop – Jōjakkō-Ji Temple. Established in the 16th Century, this Nichiren Temple is situated on the side of Mt. Kokura. Doubling as a quiet respite from the forests’ crowds, this relatively deserted destination is a must-visit for those looking for some time to unwind. During the year, soothing greenery paints the entire landscape, while during autumn, shades of orange, red, and yellow are splashed all over. Amid this foliage lies a steep staircase leading to the temple’s multiple buildings, including the main hall and a pagoda which houses Buddha.

1:00 pm

Hop back on your cycle and paddle your way to Giouji Temple, a tiny sub-temple of the nearby Daikakuji Temple. Gioji is a Shingon sect temple with a simple thatched hall and mossy gardens, which are famous for their cherry blossoms. The thick moss covering the site coupled with surrounding trees, turn the temple to a green lover’s paradise.

1:50 pm

From the quiet temples, cycle to the hustle of Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street. Dating back to the Meiji period, the street is lined with traditional machiya (townhouses), which are now converted into shops and restaurants. For its preservation of traditional townscape, the immediate area surrounding the Torii gate (Saga-Toriimoto) here has been designated as one of the four Traditional Structure Conservation Districts with the City of Kyoto. While here, carve out time to grab lunch and shop for souvenirs as well.

2:45 pm

Continue cycling to Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji Temple, a temple that seems straight out of novels. The Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji Temple is famous for its 1,200 stone statues of devoted followers of Buddhism, each with a different facial expression. Though much of the temple compound was destroyed by flooding in the Kamo River, it was rebuilt in the 1980s and early 1990s. Today, the temple covers a part of the forested mountain slope.

3:45 pm

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Singyo-hoto Tower.For Daimakuji, May is the fresh green season.
大覚寺:心経宝塔 Daikaku-ji temple is one of the oldest temples in Kyoto.This temple originate in the Imperial Villa of Emperor Saga, which was built on this location about 1200 years ago. In 2018, We have The Commemorative Buddhist Ceremony.The1200th Anniversary of the Imperial sealed calligraphic Heart Sutra transcribed by Emperor Saga. <Bojutsu-Buddhist Ceremony>
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そして平成30年は嵯峨天皇が1200年前に世の平安を祈って浄書された「般若心経」が封印されて1200年にあたり、60年に一度行われる大法会がございます。 <平成30年 嵯峨天皇宸翰勅封般若心経1200年 戊戌開封法会> ~60年に一度ひらく扉がある~  戊戌開封法会期間:平成30年10月1日~11月30日 #japan#kyoto#arashiyama#japanesetemple#temple#daikakuji#garden#japanesegarden#pond#spring#saga#ikebanasagagoryu#superbview#bojutsu#greenseason#京都#嵐山#嵯峨#寺院#大覚寺#日本庭園#庭#大沢池#いけばな#いけばな嵯峨御流#嵯峨御流#寺#絶景#戊戌開封法会#新緑

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Backtrack to Daikaku-Ji Temple, a Shingon Buddhist temple which was once a residence of Emperor Saga. Originally built in early 800s, the palace was converted into a temple and has since been one of the highest-ranked temples of Shingon Buddhism. However, the temple has played several roles in history. Retired emperors reigned from here, and in the 12th century, the temple hosted peace talks that for reuniting the Northern and Southern Imperial Courts after 50 years of Civil War. Daikakuji has also been featured in the first novel in Japanese literature — Tale of Genji.

4:30 pm

Cycle back to the Arashiyama station and hop back onto a train to take you back to Kyoto. As the train chugs along, we guarantee you’ll be lost in thought reminiscing the wonderful day that was.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Kyoto If You’re Visiting For The First Time