If you're around Kyoto, it is good to venture out the outskirts, particularly Arashiyama (嵐山, lit Mist Mountain). The natural setting of the pristine river with the scenic mountain that backdrops it makes Arashiyama a popular tourist district. We went there about a week too early to see the more vibrant autumn leaves, but it was still very breathtaking non the less.
The most iconic landmark in Arashiyama is the Togetsukyo (渡月橋, lit Moon Crossing Bridge). Spanning the Katsura River, this wooden bridge is one of the best place to enjoy the spectacular views that Arashiyama has to offer.
We met up with one of my friend's friend's mum (hereon known as okāsan) for lunch. We headed to Nishiyama sōdō (西山艸堂, lit Western Hill Church Cottage?) for some Kyoto tofu dish. To those carnivores, sorry to say that this place specialized in only tofu and vegetarian dish, up scaled to atas level that is. Vegan paradise to say the least.
This rustic Japanese restaurant allows you to enjoy the luxuriant greenery views of the garden while seated on traditional Japanese cushions at the dining area. One should not underestimate the servings of the tofu. Despite them all being veges, one can be quite contented with the dishes served, at least for me that is. It values up to approximately 3150 yen per person, probably the dearest tofu I had in my life, ever. (Special thanks to okāsan :D )
Our next stop was Arashiyama's famous bamboo groves, the Sagano Bamboo Forest. Noted as one of Japan's national treasure, this 15 km² area of bamboos invokes a certain tranquility along the walk. You may want to choose a weekday to venture this area, as this place is quite packed during the weekends (both tourists and locals alike).
Arashiyama offers a lot of the other attractions, such as the Tenryū-ji (天龍寺), Iwatayama Monkey Park and Katsura Imperial Villa, which we did not cover due to time constraint (autumn, despite the more photogenic, vibrant colours, we lost out on daytime), we opted to Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺, lit Temple of the Golden Pavilion) instead.
Designed based on the Muromachi period garden, this minimalist themed landscape is a National Special Historic Site of Japan. The Golden Pavilion, is one of Kyoto's most photographed building, contributing to the large number of visitors annually. They do have small shops that sells charms and fortune telling around as well (it's towards the exit, you can't miss them).
Getting from Arashiyama via Kyoto Station, takes approximately 50 minutes (depending on traffic that is), so make sure time is planned wisely for to and fro journey (check Google Maps for route suggestion). I would suggest a full day in Arashiyama, but if you want to slot Kinkaku-ji in the day as well, it is an hour journey (suggestion by Google Maps).
All in all, it was a good day, despite moving at a very fast phase, Arashiyama did not fail to disappoint. Despite reaching Kinkaku-ji almost towards its closing time, we were in awe by the perfectly crafted Golden Pavilion, worth the effort of rushing towards here. I'll admit, better time planning should be done by our end, but non the less, that's what makes traveling much more fun than being 100% schematic, no?