Autumn in Japan is vibrant, colorful picturesque, and goes without saying the best time to visit. The crisp cool air and the spectacular color that surrounds refreshes you and gives a much-needed break from the heat, the humidity, and the typhoons. The fall foliage in Japan, known as Koyo, paints Japan with vivid hues of crimson and yellows. Unlike cherry blossom that lasts only a few days, autumn in Japan spans over a month spreading out the crowd influx and also changes the color from yellow to deep red as the season approach an end. Here, I will suggest you a delightful fall walking itinerary you can enjoy with your partner hand in hand, in Arashiyama, Kyoto.
Arashiyama, Kyoto is one of the iconic spots in Japan for autumn leaves viewing. During autumn, Arashiyama looks like a painting right out of a canvas. Here I will guide you through the best spots in Arashiyama to make the best out of the autumn foliage in Japan.
To get to Arashiyama, you can either take Hankyu, JR or the Keifuku tram line. Depending on your location and convenience, you can choose the line. Once you get to the station, there are signboards, so you can navigate yourself even if you do not have an internet connection. Once you get off the station, you can spot the iconic landmark, Togetsokyo bridge, amidst of all the autumn colors. The bridge is across the wooded mountains which turns into stunning colors during this time. The first glimpse you get of Arashiyama is itself absolutely flattering. You can spend some time on the bridge clicking some memorable pictures with your better half before heading to the next location.
When you cross the bridge, walk towards Tenryuji temple, which is a must-see temple in Kyoto even if it isn’t fall. The temple is known for the stunning landscape garden with a background of a colorful mountain forest. You can explore the insides of the main hall and the garden. The garden and the pond makes a picture-perfect landscape, and you will definitely want to click hundred-thousand pictures. After exploring the temple, take the north exit that will take you to the famous Arashiyama bamboo gardens. You are likely to have seen pictures of this bamboo gardens if you have ever googled Kyoto or even Japan. It is probably the most photographed sights in Kyoto, and you will know why when you get there. The sight of the towering bamboo stalks, swaying and rustling in the wind will give you an ethereal feel. But the place can get really busy, so get here early in the morning for the mystical experience.
Once you exit the park, head to the next destination Okachi-Sanso-Villa, which is located at the end of the bamboo grove. This is without a doubt the best location in Arashiyama for autumn leaves viewing. This beautiful villa and its surroundings, now open to the public once belonged to the actor late Okochi Denjiro. You need to pay an entrance fee of 1000 yen to enter the premises, but it is absolutely worth spending it. Don’t lose the ticket as it fetches you a nice cup of hot matcha and wagashi (Japanese sweet), which you can enjoy at the traditional teahouse nearby. Don’t forget to explore the beautiful garden here, which literally explodes with colors.
After you finish your matcha head to Torokko Arashiyama station, which is located right next to the bamboo grove. This station is a part of Sagano scenic railways, and the train is known as the Sagano romantic train. From here you can take a mesmerizing 25 minutes sight-seeing train ride along the Hozugawa river. The train ride is absolutely scenic during fall and is one of the most beautiful train rides in Japan. Try to reserve the tickets beforehand as it is impossible to get tickets during peak times from the station. You can reserve tickets at any major JR station. Get a to and fro ticket, and when you get back, we can continue the rest of our itinerary.
When you get back at Torokko Arashiyama station, follow the Okura-Ike pond which is right next to the station and walk up to Jojakko-ji temple, another beautiful destination for enjoying the fall colors. There are a lot of other beautiful temples and shrines in this route, so if you find anything appealing, please do visit. I am only suggesting the ones that are really beautiful and worth spending time and money. Most of the temples charge an entrance fee which ranges from 500 to 1000 yen. Jojakko-ji is an overlooked temple with amazing scenery, located at the slopes of the Ogura mountain. The temple premises consist of hundreds of maple trees that turn fiery red during autumn. When you reach the top, you can get a great view of Arashiyama covered in fall colors. The temple is famous for its fall colors, but it is not overcrowded because of it off-beat location. After you finish exploring the temple and premises, walk to Gio-ji temple, which is our next destination. On the way to Gio-ji temple stop at Rakushisha poet’s hut. This spot is a break from all the temples you are visiting today. Rakushisha poet’s hut was the cottage of a famous haiku poet. It is a lovely thatched-roof hut with clay walls in a somewhat rustic setting. There are ink-brushed poems hung upon the wall and stone tablets inscribed with haiku. If you are a haiku lover, don’t miss this place.
Gio-ji temple is one of the most famous temples in Arashiyama. It is known for its chameleon-like beauty that changes throughout the year. The moss gardens in Gio-ji is stunning during summer and maple trees around turns it into a burning paradise during fall. The combination moss and the leaves covered ground is absolutely stunning. Once you are done exploring the temple and premises, grab some food some local restaurants nearby. Arashiyama is famous for its tofu cuisines. While you are there, enjoy a hot pot of Yudofu (simmered tofu and vegetables in a seaweed broth). Yudofu Segano near Tenryu-ji temple is a great one if you intend to try Kaiseki set.
If you are tired, you can get back to the hotel after the meals or else, go to Iwatayama monkey park, which is located across the Togetsukyo bridge and spend some quality time with our forefathers :).