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Kyoto

Arashiyama and Togetsukyo Bridge

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Head to Arashiyama, one of Kyoto’s premier tourist attractions to see the pink cherry blossoms of spring, the bright greens of summer, the fiery reds of autumn and the stillness of a white winter. The hillsides are full of hiking trails, view points and picnic spots providing a nice natural break from Kyoto’s man-made marvels.

Completing the image of the quintessential Japanese countryside, the Togetsukyo Bridge, Bridge to the Moon, gently spans the Oigawa River and is as much an attraction as the brilliant nature around it. Annually on the 13 April, 13-year-old children are brought to Togetsukyo Bridge for an important rite of passage. After paying respect at the nearby Horin-ji shrine, the kids must walk across the bridge without looking back, not even for a moment, for it is believed that to look back will bring a lifetime of bad luck.

  • Opening Hours: 24 hours
  • Location: Saga Tenryu-ji, Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku
  • How to get there: JR Sagano Line from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station.
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Ninna-ji

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This beautiful temple features a five-storey pagoda that was originally constructed in the 8th century and rebuilt along with the rest of the temple in the 17th century. One of Kyoto’s most interesting UNESCO World Heritage sites, the temple is laid out in shinden style; a bisymmetrical pattern in the main hall flanked by a variety of buildings connected by covered passageways. The Amida Buddha is the main spiritual draw, but the temple houses some amazing painted screens and a walled garden with dwarf cherry trees.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 09:00 - 16:30
  • Location: 33 Ouchi Omuro Ukyo-ku
  • How to get there: Bus 26 or 59 to the Omuro-ninna-ji stop
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Ryoan-ji

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Ryoan-ji is famous for its karesansui rock garden more than the temple itself. Belonging to the austere Rinzai sect of Buddhism the raked stone and rock garden is the epitome of Zen. Containing 15 rocks arranged into three groups of three, five and seven, the garden is constructed so that only 14 rocks can be seen at any one moment. If you adjust your position another rock will appear only to find a different one newly hidden. To avoid the crowds, try to get to Ryoan-ji early in the morning.

  • Opening Hours: Mar - Nov, daily 08:00 – 17:00; Dec - Feb, daily 08:30 - 16:30
  • Location: 13 Goryoshita-machi, Ryoan-ji, Ukyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 463 2216
  • How to get there: Keifuku Kitano Line to Ryoanji-michi Station or Kyoto City Bus 12 or 59 to Ryoanji-mae stop
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Tenryu-ji

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This Rinzai sect UNESCO World Heritage Site is colloquially known as the Temple of Heavenly Dragon. It was built by shogun Ashikaga Takauji to appease the spirit of Emperor Go-Daigo whom he defeated in the civil war that brought his family to power. The founding abbot, a renowned Zen master named Muso Soseki, dreamed of Go-Daigo as a golden dragon rising from the nearby Oigawa river. Fearing ill fortune, Ashikaga had the temple erected in place of Go-Daigo’s favourite villa retreat. Dating back to 1339 Tenryu-ji has been destroyed by fire no less than eight times. Present buildings were rebuilt in 1900. The garden was one of the first to use the ‘borrowed scenery’ technique recreating Mt. Horai in China.

  • Opening Hours: Apr - Oct, daily 08:30 - 17:30; Nov - Mar, daily 08:30 – 17:00
  • Location: 68 Saga Tenryu-ji Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 881 1235
  • How to get there: JR San-in Main Line from Kyoto Station to Saga Station or Keifuku Electric Railway to Arashiyama Station.
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Bamboo Forest

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Located just behind Tenryu-ji sits this extraordinary bamboo forest. For centuries Japanese artists, poets and writers have been inspired by the sound of the wind blowing through the bright green leaves, the gentle knock of the trunks touching each other, indeed these dense bamboo forests are as culturally significant as the temples and shrines they encircle. This forest leads from Tenryu-ji to Okocho Sanso villa.

  • Location: Behind Tenryu-ji – 68 Saga Tenryu-ji Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku
  • How to get there: JR San-in Main Line from Kyoto Station to Saga Station or Keifuku Electric Railway to Arashiyama Station.
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Okochi Sanso

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This private villa was the extraordinary second home to a great Japanese silent movie star Denjiro Okochi who rose to fame in the 1920s for his samurai films. The 20,000 square metre villa sits in a wonderfully peaceful location with stunning views of Arashiyama and Kyoto and took around 30 years to complete. The garden is designed to highlight all four seasons with pines, maples, cherry blossoms and azaleas. The price of admission includes a cup of tea and some cake to make the experience even sweeter.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 09:00 – 17:00
  • Location: 8 Tabuchiyama-cho, Ogurayama, Saga, Ukyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 872 2233
  • How to get there: JR San-in Main Line from Kyoto Station to Saga Station or Keifuku Electric Railway to Arashiyama Station.
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Nonomiya Shrine

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A lush bamboo forest surrounds this shrine where during the Heian Period imperial princesses lived for at least a year as an act of purification before they went on to represent the imperial family. The shrine is devoted to the god of relationships and learning, thus many single Japanese women come seeking a good match while students pray to pass their exams. As you go through the distinctive black torii gates you will see the Kame no Ishi stone. It is believed that if you stroke the stone your wish will come true within a year.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 09:00 - 17:00 (Office closes at 16:30)
  • Location: 1 Nonomiya cho, Sagano, Ukyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 871 1972
  • How to get there: JR Sagano Line, Saga-Arashiyama Station
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Koryu-ji

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Many believe Koryu-ji to be the oldest temple in Kyoto dating back to 603 however devastating fires in 818 and 1150 saw the temple rebuilt each time. The Reiho-den hall protects many ancient documents, paintings and writings, all of which are cherished as National Treasures.

  • Opening Hours: Sundays and holidays in Apr/May/Oct/Nov
  • Location: 32 Uzumasa-hachioka-cho, Ukyo-ku
  • How to get there: Kyoto City Bus to Uzumasa-Koryuji-mae Stop
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Adashino Nenbutsu-ji

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This small temple hidden on a hillside in Arashiyama is home to 8,000 stone Buddha statues, all sitting together forming a dramatic sight for those with the energy to walk the half hour or so up the hill. Adashino Nembutsu-ji is thought to be devoted to the impoverished peoples whose ashes were scattered in the area during the Heian and Edo periods.

  • Opening Hours: Mar - Nov daily 09:00 - 16:30; Dec - Feb, daily 09:00 – 16:00
  • Location: 17 Adashino-cho, Toriimoto, Ukyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 861 2221
  • How to get there: Kyoto City Bus 72 to Toriimoto stop.
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Myoshin-ji

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This 14th century temple is home to Japan’s oldest bell, cast in 698, and it is still used daily by the monks. The site was once the villa of Emperor Hanazono but once he became enlightened after many years of strict Zen Buddhist practice the villa was converted into a temple. The Lecture Hall has an amazing painted ceiling featuring ‘Dragon Glaring in Eight Directions’ that stares at you wherever you stand.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 09:10 - 11:50 and 13:00 – 16:00
  • Location: 64 Hanazono Myoshinji-cho, Ukyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 461 5226
  • How to get there: Kyoto City Bus 61, 62, or 63 to Myoshin-ji-mae stop
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Toei Uzumasa Village (aka Toei Movie Land)

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One of the most fascinating draws in Kyoto is Toei Uzumasa Village which is where many samurai and period movies were filmed. It features interesting open-air and indoor sets like old houses, barns and rooms. Guests can also enjoy a ninja show and try on traditional costumes and become a princess, warlord, samurai, ninja or geisha for a short while being photographed. Just visit their historical costume corner and don’t worry, there are professional makeup specialists on hand to help out

  • Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00 (Mar - Nov), 09:30 – 16:00 (Dec - Feb)
  • Location: 10 Uzumasa-Higashihachigaokacho, Ukyo-ku
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