White Start of the Year in Arashiyama, Kyoto
Winter, for the ones who live in the Pacific border of Japan, is mostly a dry season with predominant clear skies. Even in Kyoto, which is not actually located in the coast but a bit more into the mountains, snow is a very occasional event that takes place roughly three or four times during the season. This time, one of those rare snow storms came in the first day of the year (in Japanese, Ganjistsu/元日). The thousands of locals who flocked to the numerous shrines of the city to pray for good fortune, as well as the tourists who went there to enjoy this holiday in a traditional setting, were lucky to see the snow falling and covering the old town with a thick white blanket. A nice start of the year, isn’t it?
In the Western edge of Kyoto, the district of Arashiyama -which by the way means “storm mountain” (Arashi 嵐 “storm”, Yama 山“mountain”) - offered a beautiful scenery as both the traditional houses and the natural entourage turned white.
The first snowflakes started falling around 13:00. The image below corresponds to Hankyu – Arashiyama station.
Near the station, the Japanese flag was waving proudly as the snow started to cumulate.
This is Togetsukyo bridge which passes across the Oi river and runs tangentially to Mount Arashi (from which the district takes its name). The forest around this area well is known for housing picturesque monkeys, which can be appreciated when the weather conditions are more favorable.
As life must go on in spite of the weather, locals braved the storm. Here we can see a man riding on his bicycle, as well as the traditional man-pulled chariots strolling tourists around.
While the Shinto shrines received hordes of prayers on that day, the Buddhist temples were relatively calmer. The 360 years old Tenryu-ji, which is the biggest Buddhist temple in the Arashiyama district, looked like this during the snow storm.
The Sagano bamboo forest and grove, which is adjacent to Tenryu-ji (and has free-of-charge access, unlike the temple) turned even more impressive with the green and white color combination.
The coldest time of the season hasn’t arrived yet, and most likely there will be one or two more of these storms during the remaining days of winter. So if you happen to be in the Kansai area around the end of January/beginning of February chances are that you would be able to experience a white day in Arashiyama as well.
If you are in Osaka you can reach Arashiyama station via the Hankyu line, which is way much cheaper and convenient than the alternative JR one. Departing from the Osaka’s central Umeda station it takes just ¥400 and 58 minutes to arrive in this charming district of the ancient capital of Japan. If you are already in Kyoto, you can access Arashiyama district via JR Sanin Main line, making the 25 minutes ride (¥240) from Kyoto station to Saga-Arashiyama station.