For New Year’s Eve, I wanted to spend the day relaxing and reflecting on the past year and the new year to come. Kyōto, with it’s many different shrines, temples and gardens, is the perfect place to do this.
The first stop of the day was Fushimi Inari Taisha, a popular Kyōto shrine that sits at the base of Mt Inari. You’ve probably already seen the photos of the thousands of orange torii gates that line the mountain paths, but I can guarantee you that they are more spectacular in person.
Torii gates on torii gates on torii gates.
Each pathway feels like you’re wandering into Wonderland, especially with the thousands of fox statues littered all over the mountainside. Kitsune are considered to be messengers and these statues are an iconic part of Fushimi Inari Taisha. The paths to the top of the mountain wind through moss covered mounds, shrines and alters. We only walked halfway to top, but apparently it takes about 2 hours to get to the summit.
Kitsune shaped ema or wooden wishing plaque.
One of many kitsune statues.
Hundreds of crane origami hanging outside the shrine.
Second stop of the day was the beautiful bamboo grove in Arashiyama. Located in Kyoto’s west, this bamboo grove is like being in another world. The towering bamboo give off a peaceful yet eerie feeling and I can help but think that some ancient creature is going to poke it’s head out from between the shoots. We walked through the grove, but I did see people riding through on bicycles which I believe can be rented from one of the many shops nearby.
Kyoto’s famous bamboo grove.
Third and final stop of the day was Ōkōchi Sansō, a magnificent villa once owned by famous film actor Ōkōchi Denjirō. The villa is located within the heart of the bamboo grove, so if you’re already visiting the grove, make sure you stop here. Out of all places I have been to in Kyōto, this is by far my favourite.
Firstly, it’s not over crowded with tourists. I think this is because there’s a ¥1000 entry fee, but I can tell you this, it’s worth the ¥1000. We walked the whole way around the sprawling gardens and didn’t run into anyone else. It was magical! Plus the entry fee includes a hot cup of matcha tea and a delicious sweet, which you can get at the end from the tea house.
Matcha and matcha flavoured sweets.
Liam loved the matcha!
Secondly, it’s beautiful. The traditional Japanese architecture is lovely, but the real standout feature of the villa are the gardens. Beautiful, lush and perfectly manicured plants (that still looked amazing even though it was winter), sweet little winding paths and a wide sweeping view of the city are just some of the features of this incredible garden. All in all, it was a perfect way to spend New Year’s Eve day.
How to get here:
From JR Ōsaka take the Kyōto Line bound for Kyōto and get off at JR Kyōto. For Fushimi Inari Taisha transfer to the Nara Line bound for Nara and get off at JR Inari. For Arashiyama transfer to the Sagano Line bound for Arashiyama and get off at JR Saga-Arashiyama.
Date of visit: Wednesday 31 December 2014