3 Must-tries on Arashiyama Kyoto & Yudofu

Arashiyama mountains with autumn leaves and yudof(hot tofu) in a Japanese restaurant in Kyoto
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Must-Try 1: Enjoy the Seasonal Views of Arashiyama

Arashiyama train station in the season of cherry blossom and autumn leaves

Arashiyama in Kyoto has a completely different face from season to season. Arashiyama on the clear summer days and Arashiyama covered with snow are particularly fine, however Arashiyama in the cherry blossom season and Arashiyama in the autumn leaves season are breathtaking.

Togetsu-Kyo Bridge

Togetsukyo Bridge with cherry blossom
Togetsukyo Bridge in front of the mountain full of greenery in summer
Togetsukyo Bridge in front of the mountain covered with autumn leaves
Togetsukyo Bridge in front of the mountain covered with snow

Togetsu-kyo (moon crossing) Bridge is the symbolic one of Arashiyama. It is built over Katsura River that flows between Sagano and Arashiyama. It is said that the name “Togetsu Bridge” came from a comment made by Emperor Kameyama in the Japanese Middle Ages that when he looked at the night sky from the bridge, it seemed as if the moon was crossing the bridge.

Bamboo Forest

Cool bamboo forest that stretches for hundreds of meters

It is said that 80% of bamboo is distributed in Asia. Therefore, the large bamboo forest like the one in Arashiyama is rarely seen in Europe and North America.

Bamboo paths spread like green tunnels in the forest. The sound of leaves rustling in the wind and trunks crashing against each other is a welcome respite from the busy daily life, and the bamboo trees are a perfect place to relax. It is soothing.

A rickshaw in the bamboo forest

The area is famous and is always crowded, but a rickshaw (a paid service) is one way to get around in the forest. There is a small path for rickshaws, so you can avoid the crowds.

Tenryuji Temple

The garden of Tenryuji Temple with the autumn leaves of the mountains in the background

Tenryuji Temple is registered as a World Heritage site, and one of the most prestigious Zen temples in Kyoto where ascetic monks practice Zen meditation.

Garden of Tenryuji Temple with beautiful cherry blossoms

Tenryuji is also known for its beautiful garden. The garden, which is built around a large pond, boasts a magnificent beauty that blends in with the surrounding scenery of Mount Arashiyama and Mount Kameyama. The beauty of the garden changes depending on the seasons.

Stone garden of Tenryuji Temple with regular patterns

We feel refreshed to appreciate the calm stone garden, arranged in a regular pattern.

Kimono Forest

Kimono Forest (many poles filled with Kyo-yuzen fabrics, arranged like a forest)
Kimono Forest (many poles filled with Kyo-yuzen fabrics, arranged like a forest) at night

There is the Kimono (Japanese traditional dress) Forest at Arashiyama Station on the Keifuku Electric Rail road where many poles filled with Kyo-yuzen fabrics, are arranged like a forest. It is enchanting especially in the evening.

Yuzen is the dyeing techniques invented in Edo era (in the 17th century), and there are three in Japan which are Kyo (Kyoto), Kaga (old name of Kanazawa) and Edo (old name of Tokyo) yuzen.

Kyo-yuzen is characterized by embroidery using gold and silver threads and gold leaf which is luxurious and gorgeous.

Note that although the Keifuku Electric Rail road’s Arashiyama Station has the same name, it is a different station from the Hankyu’s Arashiyama Station, JR’s Saga-Arashiyama Station, and the Rail Car Arashiyama Station.

Must-Try 2: Enjoy a Rail Car (Sagano Romantic Train)

A rail car passing through a tunnel of cherry blossoms
A rail car running through trees with autumn leaves

A rail car called Sagano Romantic Train runs between Sagano and Kameoka. You can enjoy different view out of the rail car windows depending on the seasons. The rail car runs through a tunnel of cherry blossoms in spring and along the edge of the mountains with autumn leaves in autumn.

A rail car running along Hozu gorge

It runs slowly along the Hozu River and has many photo points. The beauty of the Hozu gorge is breathtaking.

Racoon dog figurines line the platform of Hozukyo rail car station in Kyoto

In Hozukyo Station, where racoon dog figurines line the station platform. Since ancient times, raccoon dog (ta-nuki in Japanese) has been a lucky charm displayed in front of stores to wish for business prosperity. That is because the sound of “Ta” stands for “others” and “Nuki” stands for “outdo” depending on the situation in Japanese.

Please be careful that the rail car usually runs from March 1 to December 29 (closed from December 30 to the end of February). You need to check the schedule of the year you visit.

For more information about the Rail Car (Sagano Romantic Train), please see the website of Sagano Rail Car (Sagano Romantic Train) from here.

Must-Try 3: Savor Yudofu

Kyoto and Tofu

Tofu with soy sauce poured on it

Kyoto is famous for its delicious tofu. The reason is that Kyoto is a land blessed with high-quality groundwater. Actually, Tofu is composed of water by 80-90%. Ground water in Kyoto is soft water to make soft tofu with rich soy bean flavor.

Tofu tastes best when it is freshly made. This is because the delicate soybean flavor is lost as time passes after making tofu. That is why, when you visit Kyoto, I strongly recommend you to try tofu that can be savored only in Kyoto.

Sagano, which is next to Arashiyama, is one of the most famous cities to produce quality tofu in Kyoto, and you can find many quality Tofu restaurants.

Yudofu

Yudofu served at a yudofu specialty restaurant in Kyoto

When yudofu is cooked in hard water, it becomes firm. This is because the minerals in the water act to harden the tofu. On the other hand, cooking yudofu in Kyoto’s soft water results in a soft and smooth texture.

Yudofu is made with simple ingredients: tofu, water, and kelp. Cooking yudofu in soft water makes it easier for the kelp dashi (soup stock) to dissolve into the water, and the kelp dashi envelops the tofu, resulting in delicious yudofu. Kyoto’s water is ideal for both making tofu and cooking yudofu.

Yudofu, soy-sauce-base dipping sauce and condiments (from left to right: dried bonito flakes, chopped green onion, grated radish, grated ginger)

Yudofu is a simple food that allows you to directly enjoy the taste of the tofu itself, but you can also enjoy changes in flavor depending on the condiments you eat with it.

The above picture is for yudofu, soy-sauce-base dipping sauce and condiments (from left to right: dried bonito flakes, chopped green onion, grated radish with chilli peppers and grated ginger).

A restaurant specializing in yudofu with a sign that reads "Yudofu."

Savoring yudofu is one of the must-tries when you visit Arashiyama and Sagano because there are many famous yudofu restaurants with a long history there.

Advice & Recommendations from a Native Japanese

Enjoy Boat Tour at Hozu River 

Several boats going down the Hozu river

If you have time to spare, you can also enjoy a ride down the Hozu River.

The itinerary is as follows: First of all, take a rail car from Sagano or Arashiyama station towards Kameoka station while enjoying the scenery from the rail car window. Secondly, get off the rail car at Kameoka station, and go to the boarding place of the Hozu river cruise. Thirdly, take a boat back to Arashiyama. The end of the boat ride down the Hozu River is right in the middle of the Arashiyama area. Then, then enjoy sightseeing in Arashiyama and Sagano.

For more information about Boat Tour at Hozu River, please see the website of Boat Tour at Hozu River from here.

From the Kameoka station of the rail car, it takes about 11 minutes by Keihan Kyoto Kotsu bus to the boarding place of the Hozu river cruise. (Note that the rail car Kameoka station and the JR Kameoka station are far apart in location.) 

For more information about Keihan Kyoto Kotsu bus, please see the website of Keihan Kyoto Kotsu from here.

Admire the Beauty of Nature at Saihoji Temple

Saihoji Temple covered with moss and trees

If you have time, visit Saihoji Temple, which has a 1,300-year history and is listed as a World Heritage site.

Moss-covered garden of Saihoji Temple

It is called “moss temple” because the garden of the temple looks as if it has been carpeted with moss. There are about 20 varieties of moss in the garden.

Note that you must make a reservation in advance to visit the temple. The number of visitors is controlled in order to keep the temple beautiful for a longer time.

The scene of transcribing buddhist sutra

Visitors are required to participate in religious activities such as Shakyo (Buddhist training of transcribing Buddhist sutra to another paper), then they go to a tour of the garden. It is believed that by transcribing a Buddhist sutra, one can “gain kudoku” (merit). As the Buddhist sutra is transcribed word by word, the mind becomes calm and free of distractions.

In recent years, the number of visitors from abroad to the temple has been increasing, and for those who are not accustomed to writing in Chinese characters, a short sutra of 49 characters is also available.

For more information about Saihoji Temple, please see the website of Saihoji from here.

Try Relatives of Tofu

Yuba (Tofu-skin)

Yuba made by pulling up with chopsticks

Kyoto is not only the producing district of delicious tofu, but also of delicious yuba. Yuba is made by soaking soybeans in water, grinding them, making soy milk, heating it, and pulling it up with chopsticks. Tofu is made by hardening soy milk with minerals, so yuba is a relative of tofu.

Yuba sashimi and wasabi on a plate

There are many ways to eat yuba, but the most popular, and one that allows you to taste the flavor of the yuba itself, is yuba sashimi. It is eaten with wasabi and soy sauce.

Yuba used as an component for Japanese clear soup

In kaiseki-ryori (a traditional Japanese multi-course meal), it is often served as a Japanese-style clear soup.

Rolled yubas used as components for soba (buckwheat noodles)

It is also used as an ingredient in soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) or udon (Japanese thick noodles). For more information about soba, please check it from here: “8 Japanese Foods to Learn About” / “Soba”

Hirousu (Japanese Fried Tofu Patties) 

Hirousu (Japanese Fried Tofu Patties) on a plate

Hirousu is also called ”Hiryuzu” or ”Ganmodoki”. Hirousu is made by adding yams, eggs, and other ingredients to crumbled tofu, mixing in vegetables and other ingredients, rolling it up, and deep frying it in oil. The surface has the texture of deep-fried tofu, but the inside has a smooth taste and texture of tofu. The vegetables to mix are lily bulb, lotus root, ginkgo, shiitake mushroom and so on.

Cooked hirousu (Japanese Fried Tofu Patties) in a red colored bowl

The basic cooking method is to pour boiling water over the tofu to remove excess oil, then simmer it in broth made of soup stock, soy sauce etc. sometimes topped with starchy sauce. Hirousu absorbs a lot of broth and swells up. It is sometimes cooked with vegetables such as carrots and shiitake mushrooms.

Koyadofu (freeze-dried tofu)

Koyadofu on a colander

Let’s not forget about “Koyadofu”. It is made by freezing tofu, maturing it at a low temperature, and then drying it. It is also known by the name of “Koridofu”(frozen tofu). Koyadofu was originally invented as a preserved food.

Koyadofu cooked in Japanese soup stock with edamame(green soybeans)and Japanese mustard spinach

Koyadofu is spongy in its dried state. To cook koyadofu, first soak it in hot water at 50-60°C (122-140°F), then rinse it in water and squeeze out the water. Then, cook it with soup or broth. Thus, koyadofu absorbs soup or broth well which create a unique taste and texture.

Koyadofu can be cooked with a variety of ingredients. The typical recipe is to cook it with shiitake mushroom and carrot in Japanese soup stock, soy sauce, sake (Japanese rice wine) and mirin (sweet sake) etc. Koyadofu is cooked in Japanese soup stock with edamame (green soybeans) and Japanese mustard spinach in the above picture.

Make Yuba-salad at Your Home

Dried yuba (tofu skin) Knots and square shaped yuba

Dried yuba is sold at tofu restaurants and souvenir stores in Arashiyama and Sagano. Yuba, like tofu, is a healthy food, and try making yuba-salad at home. There are two types of yuba: one in a rectangular shaped and the other in a tied three-dimensional shape. You can use whichever yuba for yuba-salad.

Yuba salad consists of yuba, shrimp, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, young corn, etc.

You can find the recipe of yuba-salad as follows:

Rehydrate the dried yuba with water for 5 minutes or with lukewarm water for 3 minutes. (If your dried yuba has usage instructions, please follow it.)

Then, cut the yuba into size you like if you use rectangular one.

When the yuba in a salad bowl together with ingredients you like. The above picture is an example of yuba-salad using cabbage, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, boiled shrimp, young corn, corn, carrots and okra.

Prepare soy-sauce-based salad dressing by mixing 3 Tbsp(45ml) of vinegar, 2 Tbsp(30ml) of soy sauce, 2 tsp(8g) of sugar and 2 Tbsp(30ml) of olive oil, and pour on to the salad. 

Access Information

To Go to Arashiyama (Togetsu-Kyo Bridge)

12 minutes from Saga-Arashiyama station of JR Line.

10 minutes from Arashiyama station of Hankyu

3 minutes from Arashiyama station of Keifuku Electric Railroad (Randen)

To Go to Arashiyama Station of Rail Car (Sagano Romantic Train)

17 minutes from Togetsu-Kyo bridge

To Go to Tenryuji-temple

13 minutes from Saga-Arashiyama station of JR Line.

15 minutes from Arashiyama station of Hankyu

In front of Arashiyama station of Keifuku Electric Railroad (Randen)

To Go to Boarding Place of the Hozu River Cruise

11 minutes by Keihan Kyoto Kotsu bus from Kameoka station of the rail car

8 minutes from Kameoka station of JR Line

To Go to Saihoji Temple

20 minutes from Matsuo Taisha station of Hankyu

From Kyoto Station, take Kyoto Bus No. 73 or No. 83 (bound for Koke-dera /Suzumushi-dera). 3 minutes from Koke-dera/Suzumushi-dera bus stop

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