Arashiyama on wheels
Cycling is a novel way to get round any sightseeing
area and allows you to see more for your money.
When leaving the crowded shopping areas of
Kyoto behind, you are very likely to find Arashiyama
to retain some rural charm. Temples don’t
serve as an oasis in an urban space but are
situated within onion and rice fields or forests.
The Oi River is still allowed to be a river with
a stony beach, and no high-rise spoils the view.
Biking is also a more private way of getting
around. It leaves space to experience the quiet
residential neighborhoods, gives a wider overview
and allows a more unflustered approach
to the sightseeing spots.
Crossing the Togetsukyo, or the Moon-Crossing
Bridge, gives you a view towards Arashiyama
(Storm Mountain). The river upstream usually
hosts a number of boats, which make — together
with its autumn foliage — a handsome photo.
Following the crowded shopping street a
couple of hundred meters on the left hand side
lays Tenryuji. If you have already visited Tenryuji
leave it behind and bike along the main street
towards Seiryoji. After crossing the train tracks
turn left at the next street and find your way
Jojyakukouji is situated at the bottom of
Ogurayama. A set of steps directs visitors towards
the entrance. In this season they reflect the
color of the maple trees. In the evening the
stairway is saturated in a soft glowing light.
The trees on the small plateau, where the
temple seems to lean against the back of
Ogurayama, frame a stunning view over Kyoto.
The porch of the temple is a good place to
enjoy the unusual moss garden. Here, the
narrow and elongated pond stretches right
along the temple, just divided by a small path.
Another steep but short path leads towards
a beautiful pagoda, which was rebuilt to model
its predecessor, which was crafted in the Edo
Period and lasted till 1868.
Leaving Jojyakukouji it is only a short ride to
Nisonin. Turn left at the exit, follow the street
till it turns left, hang a right at the next street.
At a T-junction turn left to enter Nisonin.
Nison-in also has a large number of maple
trees flanking the path from the gate to the main
complex but is also renowned for its ancient
cemetery. On the steep slopes of the cemetery,
towered over by large pine trees lay the graves
of emperors and members of the aristocracy.
Giouji, the small thatched nunnery, is another
temple on the foothills of Ogurayama. The
comparably simple, almost poor appearance
of Giouji and its surrounding moss garden
enhances its contemplative character. The
adjoining bamboo forest and the tall maple
trees in the garden cast a shadow over the
scene and immerse the temple ground in a
The temple got its name from Giou who is
mentioned in the Tale of Heike. Giou is described
as a dancer and mistress of Kiyomari Taira,
who was replaced by Hotoke Gozen — another
young dancer. Giou decided to become a nun
and came to this remote cottage. A while later
Hotoke Gozen joined her after being deeply
impressed by a poem which Giou wrote about
the transient nature of happiness.
In contrast to Giouji, Daikakuji is more
opulent. With its large pond and numerous
buildings Daikaku-ji reveals its former usage as
the palace of emperor Saga in the 9th century.
The temple can be reached from Giouji in an
approximately 10-minute bike ride.
Daikakuji is set up with elevated walkways,
a museum and a number of wooden structures,
has many nooks and crannies and reveals
beautiful views onto the pond Osawanoike.