Arashiyama makes a perfect day trip from Kyoto. The place is especially renowned for its bamboo grove. At only a short walking distance from the train station, the bamboo forest will enchant you. A hiking and biking path cuts through the forest of straight bamboo trees that sway gently with the wind and gently filters the sunlight, providing a relief from the intensely warm Japanese summer days.
During the Cherry Blossom (Sakura) season in Japan, many Japanese wander the street to enjoy the scenery, creating a very interesting atmosphere. For this photo session, I used one of my favourite technique, walking randomly in the streets until some scene catches my attention. Observing what the locals do, and joining them is an interesting cultural experience. Several shots were taken while sitting, fully relaxed, along the banks of the river.
Geishas are traditional female entertainers in Japan. Meeting with a Geisha is definitely expensive: one may expect to spend several thousand USD for an evening. For those who may not be able to afford, there are opportunities to catch a glimpse of Geisha’s elegance as they wander in the streets. One of the best place to see Geishas is in the Gion district of Kyoto. Many Geisha establishments, luxury restaurants, and tea houses are located in the area and therefore the chance of seeing Geishas is quite high. I highly advise to wander the streets of Gion at around 6:30 PM and later for the best chance to see them. For about one hour and a half spent in the district, I could see about 10 of them. Taking pictures is another story: Geishas walk surprisingly fast and look down most of the time so I advise to be very alert since you might have only a few seconds to get a good shot. If you want to know the name of the Geishas you have seen, posting your photos on Flickr might be useful. Many Geisha enthusiasts over there will enjoy identifying them for you!
The Shoren-in temple is quite discreet compared to its bigger neighbour Chion-in. It certainly feels more secluded, and therefore at the same time, more peaceful. Two walking paths are available, one through the garden with shoes on and one through the building without any shoes as per the Japanese tradition. One can get a glimpse of Kyoto and a great overview of the temple Shoren-in temple, from the uphill section of the garden.
The Chion-in temple is located very close to the Yasaka Shrine. It is a very large temple with a lot trees and splendid architecture. I really liked the feeling of peace emanating for the temple. Slightly uphill from the temple are some cemeteries which offer a great view of the temple and some parts of Kyoto from above.
The Heian Jingu shrine is one of the biggest and most important shrines in Kyoto and remains easy to access from the city centre. For a small fee, the garden of Heian Jingu, which I was lucky enough to visit during the blooming of Cherry Blossoms, offers magnificent views.
Located next to the Gion district (Gion at night;Geisha;Gion in daytime) the Yasaka shrine is very lively in sakura season, filled with vendors of Japanese street food. There, you find people eating, drinking and having lots of fun under the Sakura trees (Cherry blossoms). If you are lucky, you might even see a Geisha entertaining her customers.
Japanese people have a special love for Cherry Blossoms (Sakura in Japanese language) trees. When Sakura trees bloom in Japan, approximately around mid-April, Japanese head to parks for a picnic under the trees. This type of picnic is referred to as o-hanami in Japanese language. In Kyoto, one of the great places to do o-hanami is the Gion district, where the ambiance of older times is well preserved and where plenty of restaurants and isakaya can be found. One of the best way to enjoy this district, in my opinion, is to walk somewhat randomly on the small streets which often lead to great surprises. About the great sights I was able to observe, the photo gallery will speak for itself!
I wanted to go to Kyoto tower in the evening in the hope to get a nice view of the city by night but I was unfortunately 4 minutes late to buy my ticket. (Closed at 9:30 I think!). I ended up walking around the tower and the train station, Kyoto-Yodobashi.