Hiking in the Depths of Arashiyama

When I hike, I despise the worn down paths taken by so many before. Safe is the word that comes to mind, sure, but certainly not interesting. Not as interesting as going deep into the woods. So when I approached my friend about this, he wasn’t too keen on the safety part but I ignored him anyway.

We took the train to Arashiyama and walked up a hill to a temple, hoping we can bypass it into the nearest mountain. My feet were already slightly sore as I wanted to try out my posh, new cognac-coloured boots I bought on sale at an outlet store. As nice as the temple was, we quickly admired the view and left, eager to mount the mountain. A map of the area was posted nearby so we took a quick look. Finding the entrance didn’t seem too interesting, but there was a river on the other side of the mountain which looked tempting so we made that our goal.

A quick circle around the foot of the mountain led us to a narrow path in. The weather was cold but the climb quickly got us hot and tired for we haven’t ventured outdoors much in the winter months. A day in bed watching dancing cats started to seem more appealing. We slowly ventured upwards and I started yodelling to see if the sound would bounce back off the surrounding mountains. We did stick to the path for a while but I was starting to hope for an opportunity to detour. The mountain started to level out and we took a break where the path split into different directions. Here was another map we studied. There were two normal paths which were noted on the map, and a narrow path which someone added to the map with a marker pen. The dotted line went further than the two paths, and looked slightly more interesting with the potential of falling off the edge, so we opted for that one and pushed forward. We eventually came to a clearing with spectacular views. There was a shed nearby which looked old and unused. We rested and decided it was time to head down to a train station, preferably to get a bottle of water. The options were to head back which sounded like a nightmare, or to go up another path, which also sounded like a nightmare. Then we looked to the shed again. Behind it was a small path heading down but it was chained off with a no entry sign. Perfect!

We soon found out why there was a no entry sign. The path slowly dissolved into a rope and became very steep. There were some pink ribbons tied to trees which guided us down. On the upfront, we could hear the river we wanted to reach down below, so we thought we should just abseil down the mountain, trusting our lives with the person who tied this rope for us. 

We made it to the bottom only to be welcomed by train tracks that were fenced off. There was the river right on the other side. It didn’t seem as if we would be able to get across easily but thankfully we found a small tunnel under the tracks where water from the mountain can reach the river. There was another rope so gladly, we took the rope in the knowledge that this person who laid the ropes knew what was going down. 

A great hike ended with a helpful man who guided us out of the river to the nearest station so that we could go home. Going off the trails a little is great in Japan and I would highly recommend it, though take obvious precautions when doing so. 

Getting There

Take the Hankyu Line from a station in Osaka or Kyoto and head to Arashiyama Station. From there, head to the mountains!

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