By Febry Fawzi
Arashiyama is also called Storm Mountain in Japanese. However, its scenery is best enjoyed on a fine day, as the combination of gentle sunlight and bamboo groves make for a photographer's paradise. This area is well known for Togetsukyo Bridge, Tenryuji Temple and the Bamboo Grove, and is very popular during fall because of the amazing hues. Likewise springtime brings many fans during the cherry blossom season. There are a number of smaller temples that you can visit as well.
The most enjoyable and convenient way to explore Arashiyama is by renting a bicycle. These are available around the train station area. You can select from several options ranging from an hour to a full day, on either a standard or an electric bicycle. Your choice ultimately depends on how many places you would like to explore. When you rent a bike, you will be given a map of the area which you can follow, allowing you to explore all the different places at your own leisure. Bear in mind that the area east of Togetsukyo Bridge and the souvenir shops can get crowded, especially after lunch on the weekends. As Arashiyama is less than 15 minutes minutes north west of Kyoto by Japan Railways (JR), it is a popular spot for day trippers from Kyoto or Osaka. From Higashi Maizuru, near the Maizuru Cruise Ship Terminal, it is about 95 minutes by limited express.
An electric bike costs 1500 yen for a full day, while a standard bike costs 1000 yen. While an electric bike can be up to 10 kilograms heavier, you are unlikely to lift it, as there are not many steps in the area. The electric bike is particularly useful if you are going beyond the bamboo grove and the main temples, though you could ride all the way to Kyoto station without much problem as the landscape is fairly flat in the built up areas of the city. In the other direction there are some steep climbs, for example the road to the monkey park and further up. Having the electric bike is really useful if you want to conserve your energy especially if you have a heavy backpack. Alternatively, you can leave any heavy items with the bike hire shop. Another place to hire a bicycle is Roujiya Guesthouse which is between Nijo and Hankyu Omiya stations. You don't need to stay here to rent a bike, which costs 500 yen per day. It is open from 8am to 11am, and then from 4pm to 9pm.
Togetsukyo Bridge or Moon Crossing Bridge, with the dramatic mountain range behind it, is one of the most famous landmarks here, and you may have seen it before on postcards and guidebooks. There is a park next to it with cherry trees lining the riverbank which make for a spectacular view during the cherry blossom season. The Katsura River runs through Arashiyama and you can take a pleasure boat ride that can take you up and down the river, giving a different viewpoint to the bicycle.
Another famous destination is the Bamboo Grove where you can take a stroll and marvel at hundreds of tall bamboo trees that sway gently and rustle in the wind. If you explore this area during sunset or sunrise, you can see rays of light shining through the trees. Most people take a very fast walk through this area but I suggest taking it slow if you have the time to fully enjoy the grove.
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