Updated: Dec 10, 2020
This guide is about the Arashiyama Area in the West of Kyoto, near the mountains. As the sightseeing spots and cafés/restaurants there are pretty close to each other, it is possible to visit many of these places in a one-day trip! The area is especially beautiful in autumn as the forests on the mountains look absolutely stunning. In spring there are cherry blossoms, but even in summer I recommend checking out Arashiyama as it is lovely there. There are also some great vegan food options, including traditional food.
How to get to Arashiyama
Train Stations: JR Saga Arashiyama (San-in Line), Arashiyama Randen
Bus: Kyoto City Bus no. 28
Kyoto Bus 72, 73, 76, 77, 83, 86
Tenryu-ji is a Rinzai sect zen buddhist temple in Arashiyama, in the west of Kyoto. It was established in 1339 by the shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358) with the Zen master Muso Soseki (1275-1351) as founding abbot. Soseki was also a famous garden designer and constructed Tenryu-ji's garden, which is still in its original form.Furthermore, Tenryu-ji was built to ease then spirit of the former Emperor Go-Daigo (1288-1339).
The temple got destructed by eight major fires. After reconstructions Tenryu-ji got a form close to how it is now after 1934.
Check out this blogpost for more detailed information:
Opening Hours: 8:30 to 17:00 (entry until 16:50) No closing days
Admission: 500 yen (an extra 300 yen for entrance into the temple buildings)
Address: Japan, 〒616-8385 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, 68
Official Website: http://www.tenryuji.com/en/
Bamboo Forest Grove
You can get there by foot within only 10 min from Saga Arashiyama Station. Tenryu-ji Temple and Kameyama Park are very close-by as well.
This is one of Kyotos most famous places and a must-visit in my opinion! Entering the magical bamboo forest almost feels like being teleported in another world. It’s also a good place to escape the summer heat.
Opening Times: daily, 24h
Togetsu-kyo (Rising Moon Bridge)
Togetsu-Kyo is a 155m long bridge over the beautiful Katsura River and was first built in 836. However, the current bridge was finished in 1934. From it you have a stunning view over the beautiful river, therefore it is a popular photo spot even for Japanese tourists. And it has been used for shooting historical movies!
The name "Togetsu" (Rising Moon Bridge) comes from a tale about the emperor Kameyama during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Whilst on a boat party during full moon, he thought that the moon looked like it was crossing the bridge.
You can find many souvenir shops, character shops and food stalls near it. If you cross the bridge, you can check out the Iwatayam Monkey Park (see information down below). And if you can’t get enough from the magical river atmosphere, I recommend taking a boat ride!
Opening Hours: 24h
Yakata-Bune Boat Ride on Hozu River
I absolutely loved this magical boat tour on Hozu river! I did it in summer, but the staff recommended autumn season as the forest on the surrounding mountains tinted into stunning autumn colors is a must-see! The forest includes cherry trees as well, so spring would be wonderful, too. But even in summer it was sooo beautiful! I enjoyed the mild breeze while listening to the staff teaching interesting historical facts as well as information about the area. Surrounded by nature, it was really relaxing.
And my personal highlight: there is a ship selling foods and drinks, kind of like a kiosk! It will get close to your ship and ask of you need anything. How cool is that?! They have different snacks like crisps and even freshly grilled dango.
All in all the tour takes about 1h which in my opinion went by really fast. As it is not too long, it is easy to incorporate it into ones sightseeing schedule. It was such an amazing and relaxing experience, perfect after spending the whole day sightseeing!
Reservation via call is recommended (Tel.: (075)861-0302)
Duration: about 1h
Prices: 1-2 people 3700 yen (total), every extra person costs an additional 1200¥. Children are 600¥.
Iwatayama Monkey Park
One of my personal favourites in Arashiyama! Iwatayama Monkey Park is located near Togetsu-kyo, a short hike up on Iwatayama mountain. It is home to Japanese macaque monkeys who walk around at the top completely freely! Some even sleep right next to you on the ground which I found adorable.
It is possible to buy snacks for them. However, I recommend not to take your own food to the park as they might steal it. Also, even though they are used to humans and seemed very friendly to me, they are still wild animals. Therefore there are some rules that must be followed:
Don’t stare the monkeys in the eye nor touch them.
Don’t feed them outdoors.
Don’t take close-up pictures of the monkeys - stay at least two meters away.
Don’t crouch while taking pictures.
All in all, I think it's an awesome experience to get so close to the monkeys and there seem to be taken care of very well. There are caretakers who look after the monkeys and provide food, so I believe that they have a good life there. Especially as they are not kept in cages but rather can go to wherever they want.
Opening Hours: summer 9:00-16:30, winter 9:00-16:00
Address: Japan, 〒616-0004 Kyoto, Nishikyo Ward, Arashiyama Nakaoshitacho, 61
A lovely park easily accessible from the bamboo forest or Katsura river.
It's not visited by tourists as much as other parts of Arashiyama but totally worth a stroll, especially during spring and autumn. I also recommend it as a resting spot when you're powered out from sightseeing.
Apparently in autumn it is possible to sometimes see monkeys who came down from the mountains. How awesome is that?!
Address: Japan, 〒616-8386 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Sagakamenoocho, ６
Sagano Scenic Railway
Also called Sagano Torokko. This old fashioned train is particularly popular in autumn, as it is possible to see the gorgeous autumn colors of the huge forest along the route. Sagano Scenic Railway is a sightseeing train line which runs along the Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka. As it runs in slower pace, it is possible to enjoy the stunning view throughly. The tour takes around 25min.
In order to get back to Arashiyama, you can either take the same train back, catch a JR train from Umahori Station, or get on a river cruise.
! Trains do not operate in winter from December 31 to the end of February.
Reservation required! Reservate online here:
Fee (regular, one-way): adults: 630¥, children 320¥ (children under 6 are free)
Operation Times: https://www.sagano-kanko.co.jp/en/jikoku.php
(Trains do not operate in winter from December 31 to the end of February)
Address: 4-2 Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8394, Japan
Located at the Arashiyama Randen Station, the so-called Kimono forest is a popular photo spot for Japanese tourists. About 600 brilliant cylinder-shaped pillars stand in a row, reminding on a forest. The special thing about them is that they have different kimono fabrics in all patterns and colors inside and these fabrics are made using the traditional Kyo-Yuzen technique. It is a style of dyeing and printing which is used to make Yuzen Kimono in Kyoto. Because they light up at night, there is an especially beautiful atmosphere in the evening hours!
As you'll most likely pass it anyways while going from sightseeing spot to sightseeing spot, why not stop by and take a unique picture?
Opening Times: 24h
Address: Sagatenryuji Imahoricho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8366, Japan
Nonomiya Shrine is a small shrine near Tenryu-ji Temple and it is surrounded by the Bamboo forest. It has a long history and was founded a long time ago as a purification shrine for the imperial princesses who were appointed as priestesses for the Ise Shrine.
Opening Hours: 9:00 - 17:00
Address: 1 Saganomiyanomotocho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8393, Japan
About 20 min by foot from Saga-Arashiyama Station.
The official name of the temple actually is "Kyu Saga Gosho Daikaku-ji Monzeki" (the Old Saga Imperial Palace Daikaku-ji Temple) and it was originally built during the Heian Period (794-1192) as Emperor Saga's (786-842) Imperial Villa, but was converted to a temple of Shingon Buddhism in 875. Until the Meiji Restoration im 1868 the head priest used to always be a member of the Imperial Family.
Daikaku-ji Temple contains the same design elements as the ancient imperial palace and has stunning gardens with a beautiful pond.
One of the temples most important treasures is a copy of the Heart Sutra handwritten by Emperor Saga.
Opening Hours: 9:00 - 17:00 (last entry at 16:30)
Admission: adult 500¥, elementary school students till high school students 300¥
Address: 4 Sagaosawacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8411, Japan
By foot 23 min from Saga Arashiyama Station.
This place is known for its magical moss garden. Gio-ji Temple is a modest thatched hut surrounded by a bamboo grove and maple trees. This is a special place for those who like to read pre-modern Japanese literature, as it appeared in the famous story „The Tale of the Heike“ (heike monogatari).
This temple is located in the temple precincts of the former Oujyo-in Temple, whose spacious temple grounds ranged up and down the mountain, but later fell into dilapidation. Only the modest convent remained, and it later came to be known as Gio-ji Temple.
Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00 (last entry 16:30)
Admission: adults 300¥, elementary school students 100¥
Address: 32 Sagatoriimoto Kozakacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8435, Japan
Cafes & Restaurants
Vegan = V , Vegetarian = VG, Non-Vegan and Non-Vegetarian = NV
Tenryu-ji Temple Shigetsu (V)
Shojin ryōri (temple cuisine)
Shigetsu is one of the most popular restaurants for shōjin ryōri in Kyoto as it is located inside the Tenryu-ji Temple complex. Because you have to pay the entrance fee for Tenryu–ji's beautiful garden, I recommend combining both experiences.
They have three set meals with changing ingredients depending on the season. You have to do a reservation at least one day in advance.
Check out this blogpost for more information:
Prices: 3800~8500¥ depending on the set
Opening Times: 11:00-14:00 Reservation required!
(you can find an English form on the website)
Address: 68 Susukinobaba-cho, Saga-Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 616-8385 Japan
(Inside the Tenryu-ji garden)
Tel: (075) 882-9725
Musubi Cafe (NV, V)
lunch set plates, curry, pasta, taco rice, diner, sweets
Near Togetsu-kyo bridge.
Opening Times: Breakfast 10:30-11:30, Lunch 11:30-15:00, Cafe&Tea 15-18:00
(closed on Tuesdays)
Address: 1-8 Arashiyama Nishiichikawacho, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0003, Japan
Zarame (VG, V)
cotton candy, shaved ice
A small, really stylish shop for cotton candy made with organic ingredients from Japan and the sticks are made from bamboo. The cotton candy is pretty big and there are many different flavors such as for example matcha, kinako (roasted soy bean powder), strawberry etc. They also have shaved ice with cotton candy on top and the yuzu flavored one can be made vegan by omitting the jelly. You can even buy packaged souvenirs to gift friends or take home.
Because some flavors contain milk pleas ask the staff if unsure.
Address: Japan, 〒616-8373 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Sagatenryuji Kurumamichicho, 1
Opening Times: 10:00 - 18:00
Coffeeshop with soy milk options, lemonade
Located between Togetsu-kyo bridge and Yakata-Bune.
% Arabica is a coffee shop chain which had its first café in Kyoto, but now has branches in many different countries around the world. The inside is very stylish and there even is information about coffee which you can look at while waiting. As there are huge windows, you can enjoy the amazing scenery. There is a small seating area outside with a great view over Katsura River.
Opening Times: Monday - Friday 9:00 - 17:00, Saturday, Sunday 9:00 - 18:00
Address: 3-47 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385, Japan
eX Cafe (VG, V)
wagashi, matcha, drinks with soy milk
This cafe's interrior is a mix of traditional Japanese style with a modern touch. The menu includes many different Japanese sweets (wagashi), which usually are vegan. If unclear, please ask the staff. The highlight there is a dango-set where you get a tiny stove with fire inside on your table so that you can roast delicious dango by yourself. Such a fun experience! I recommend trying it out with friends or your date.
Opening Times: 8:00 - 17:30
Address:35-3 Sagatenryuji Tsukurimichicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8384, Japan
Saganoyu (NV, VG, V(drink options only)
NV & VG pancakes, pasta, drinks, vegan drink options
Check out this blogpost for more information:
Opening Times: 11:00 - 18:00 last order 17:00
(Because the opening times seem to change from time to time, please check here for updates: http://www.sagano-yu.com/infomation.html)
Address: 〒616-8366 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺今堀町4-3
Other vegan-friendly cafés/restaurants I haven't been to yet:
Opening Times: temporarily closed. Pleas confirm on the website before visiting.
Address: 41-3 Arashiyama Nakaoshitacho, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0004, Japan
Seizan Sodo (VG, V) 西山艸堂
Tofu Shojin Ryori
Inside Tenryu-ji Temple. Call to confirm.
Opening Times: 11:30 - 16:00 (closed on Wednesdays)
Address: 63 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385, Japan
Saga Tofu Ine (NV, V)
Tofu restaurant, wagashi
Near the Kimono Forest.
Opening Times: 11:00 - 19:00
Address: 19 Sagatenryuji Tsukurimichicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8384, Japan
If you find other vegan-friendly spots in Arashiyama or try one of the places I haven't been to yet, please share your experience in the comment section so that everyone can read about it :)