After wandering the streets of Kyoto, and feeling like we were stepping back in time, we traveled to the edges of the city visiting Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari, spending a day surrounded by bamboo forests and vermillion torii.
Side note – these are both tourist hotspots any time of year. Given the crowds we’d encountered simply because it was cherry blossom season, we knew that both locations were going to be very busy.
We got up early, flashed our JR passes and hopped on a train headed Arashiyama. Our first stop was of course for coffee at the adorable and oh-so-hipster joint Arabica. While you wait for that liquid gold to drip fill your cup (in the form of drip coffee or perfectly pressed espresso) you can gaze past the barista and get lost in the beautiful view of the Arashiyama Mountain, Ooi River, and Togetsukyo Bridge.
With our coffee in hand we headed into the bamboo forest, opting to skip the main entrance for the one off the river so we could take in the sights of boats and mountain-side sakura.
Stepping into the bamboo forest you feel like you’ve stepped into another world. Walking down the path surrounded by these long, thin trees stretching towards the sun was incredibly beautiful. Equally entertaining was observing the reactions from the crowd of people there – women dressed in Kimonos trying to get the perfect pose with the perfect backdrop, awestruck children standing and staring straight up, the photographer crouching down or reaching up all for the shot.
We veered off the main path pretty quickly, finding more forest to explore, in a quieter setting on the other side.
Before hopping back on the train and heading to Fushimi Inari, we decided to explore Arashiyama a little more. We stopped for a delicious lunch of eggs on rice with sakura tea then slowly meandered our way towards the station, stopping to take in the sights and sounds of this sleepy and beautiful district.
From Arashiyama we hopped on a train back to Kyoto, then headed to Fushimi Inari to spend the afternoon following a route of over 5000 brilliant orange torii that snakes its way around a mountain.
After reaching the peak, and growing tired of the crowds, we spotted a little pathway off the main path on our way down and went to take a look. To our surprise, we encountered a family who had taken a trail up the mountain and told us it was definitely worth exploring. Having spent a lot of time walking through the torii and exploring the mountainside shrines, we decided to veer off take the path down the mountain and the family was so right. We came across randomly placed torii, houses tucked into the mountainside (and in one case, just behind a waterfall), a few bamboo forests and incredibly friendly locals. It was the ideal balance and when we returned to Kyoto we toasted to the day, and our third wedding anniversary, with drinks made from Japanese whiskey and local Gin at a bar named after my one of my favourite movies, while planning our next adventures in Osaka. Truly, a perfect day.