Fall Colors in Arashiyama, Kyoto – the Gorgeous Spots for Leaf Peeping in



Most Japanese agree that nothing says “momiji-gari (紅葉狩り)” or autumn leaf peeping like Arashiyama, Kyoto. And I think this must have been true for people who lived in Kyoto one thousand years ago. Murasaki Shikibu (“Lady Murasaki”), a Japanese poet and novelist in the 10th century (who also served as a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Court), depicted the melancholic beauty in the fall colors in Arashiyama in her masterpiece, The Tale of Genji.

Arashiyama is a district in the western end of Kyoto. It is famous for its seasonal changes in nature, together with some temples and shrines of historical value. In this article, I would like to introduce notable tourist spots that deserve admiration in Arashiyama. I am going to attach the links for official websites for more details about each of the places that are introduced in this article as well.

The Best Six Places to Enjoy Autumn Colors in Arashiyama

Momiji Festival at Togetsukyo Bridge

Togetsukyo Bridge spans the Oi River (or the Katsura River) running from the mountains near Kameoka. And the area around the bridge has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185). People of a noble class would travel there and admire the beauty of changing colors of leaves by writing “waka (和歌)” poems (just as modern people have great pleasure posting everything on Instagram.)

Arashiyama Momiji Festival, which takes place on the second Sunday of November, re-enacts the pastime of people in the medieval Kyoto. At the festival, beautiful performers in Heian Period costumes play traditional dance and music performances. Elegantly decorated boats floating down the river carry the performers whose kimonos and other colorful costumes perfectly match the backdrops of the fall foliage in the mountains. Also, beautiful “geisha” companions perform open-air tea ceremonies on the riverbank. Please check the following website for more details, URL (Japanese only):

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

It isn’t only colors that determine the elements to celebrate fall foliage. Hearing the leaves mildly fluttering in the breeze is also one of the best parts of enjoying autumn. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is a great attraction to do so. Serene sounds from the bamboo leaves give you a soothing sense of relief. The forest consists of several pathways for tourists and visitors. It is one of the best places to enjoy “Japanese soundscape”. It’s 10-15 minutes’ walk from Arashiyama Station on the Keifuku Electric Railroad Line. The JR San-in Line is also available.

image courtesy of bryan…

Nonomiya Shrine

Nonomiya Shrine is in the middle of the Bamboo Forest. This shrine was used as a divine place for a young unmarried imperial princess to stay for a year or more to purify herself before traveling to Ise Grand Shrine, where she would undergo several rituals to take the place of the newly ascended emperor.

The shrine is depicted in the chapter of “賢木 (Sakaki)” or “The Sacred Tree” in The Tale of Genji. Tormented by a guilty conscience after the death of Genji’s wife, Lady Rokujo, Genji’s lover, decides to run away from him. She lives a sorrowful life with her daughter in this shrine. Because (or despite) of this episode, the shrine is associated with marriage and romance. Many visitors are (lovesick?) women. It’s 10-minutes’ walk from Arashiyama Station on the Keifuku Electric Railroad Line or JR Saga-Arashiyama Staion on the Sagano Line. For more details, please check the official website of the shrine, URL:

Tenryuji Temple


Tenryuji is a highly recognized Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, founded by Ashikaga Takauji, the first shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate, in 1339. Its first chief priest is Muso Soseki, a multi-talented artist and monk. The temple is famous especially for its landscape garden designed by the monk. The temple was suffered from eight fires after its establishment, but the Soseki’s garden, Sogenchi Garden, shows traces of its original design. Sogenchi Garden is built in the “shakkei (借景)” style, which is the traditional garden-building technique of incorporating backdrop landscape – Mt. Ogura on the west from the temple – into the composition of the garden. Mt. Ogura, also known as “Kameyama (亀山)”, is one of the best momiji spots in Kyoto. Admission is ¥500 for an adult and ¥300 for a child. It’s about 15 minutes’ walk from Arashiyama Station. Please check the temple’s official website for more information, URL:

The Sagano Scenic Railway

Arashiyama includes the Saga district as well, which is the area on the upstream side from Togetsukyo Bridge. The Sagano Scenic Railway, known as the Sagano Romantic Train or the Sagano “Torokko” Train, runs (between Saga and Kameoka) along the Hozu River, which winds down through the mountains into the Oi River in Arashiyama. The lovely, Lego-like trains on the 7-kilometer long line meander through the mountains at a comfortable pace and it takes about 25 minutes to complete the journey. They offer passengers breathtaking views of the autumn forest. A one-way ticket costs ¥620 and all seats are reserved. Please note that the trains don’t run on Wednesdays. Please visit the official website to find more information about the timetable and tickets, URL:

The Hozu River Cruising

This is probably another exciting adventure to enjoy during your Arashiyama trip, which is often combined with a ride on the Sagano Scenic Train. The Hozu River Cruising is a whitewater “rafting” down the Hozu River on a traditional flat-bottomed boat. Skilled boatmen navigate the boats with oars and push their ways with a bamboo pole. You can enjoy the two-hour cruise all year round, but they are especially popular from the mid-November to early December, when the maple leaves reach the peak of autumn colors. It costs ¥4,100 for a ride. Please find more information from the following official website, URL:

Closing Remarks

There are many other spots for leaf peeping in Kyoto. Some famous places are actually overcrowded with tourists and visitors. But the unforgettable beauty of fall colors that waits for you is well worth the hassle. If you are thinking where you should go, you can refer to one of the articles which I wrote on FestivalGo: Kyoto Popular Momiji Spots and Fall Festivals.  Visit here:

And if you would like to see the hidden gems of Kyoto with your own eyes together with a local guide, please click on the banner below!

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