Top 4 Sightseeing Spots in Kyoto's Ukyo Ward

by GoWithGuide travel specialist

If you are planning a sightseeing tour of Kyoto, then the area of Ukyo is one of the highlights. Arashiyama tops the list of attractions, a huge bamboo forest where you can feel lost in nature. Three amazing temples each with incredible gardens can also be found in Ukyo; rock formations, beautiful ponds, and the changing of autumn leaves can be enjoyed at each:


(image by

Arashiyama is an area that includes Tougetsukyo Bridge which spans Katsura River and the mountain that soars up to command a view of the area. This is a quiet place that is surrounded by mountains which have had classic Japanese poems recited about them from long ago, and there are many various shrines and temples. Recently, along with the famous well-established dining establishments, there have also been Japanese-style cafes, souvenir shops selling miscellaneous goods from Kyoto, trolley trains, and river cruises down Hozu River, etc. so that Arashiyama is a popular tourist area where you can enjoy yourself in many ways.

Fully experiencing the great outdoors through the trolley trains and cruises down Hozu River is recommended. Tickets can be purchased on that day, and we recommend going from Arashiyama to Kameyama by trolley train and then making the return trip by Hozu River cruise. While the trolley trains run slowly and elegantly through the mountain valley, you can enjoy the seasonal scenery of the cherry blossoms in spring, the new green leaves in summer, the changing leaves in fall and snow in winter on a one-way trip that will take 25 minutes (not in service in January and February). And then you can take the tourist boat cruise down the 16 km of mountain streams as you go down Hozu River over the next 2 hours. This is a popular ride down the river as the traditional boatmen row and you can get a taste of both the seasonal beauty of nature and some thrills. The ride down Hozu River is in operation all year, and in winter, there are boats with heated tatami mats. Walking around Arashiyama Station is another attraction. Around Tougetsukyo Bridge, you can rent rowboats and enjoy the scenery of Arashiyama nearby. A must-see place is Tenryu-ji Temple. Founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, it has a beauty that is like a Japanese painting which takes advantage of the Arashiyama scenery. The Unryu-zu that measures 9 meters in diameter and is painted on the ceiling of the Hatto (Lecture Hall) is truly spectacular with its image of a dragon that no matter from where you see it, it seems to glare at you. On the north side of Tenryu-ji, a walking path extends out for 100 meters with the elegance of a bamboo forest.

Admission: Various

Guidebook from Planetyze about Arashiyama 
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Arashiyama 
Tours of Arashiyama 


(image by

The Rock Garden at Ryōan-ji is listed as both A National Site of Special Scenic Beauty and a National Historic Site. As a karesansui, or dry landscape, garden, sand is used to represent the sea, its waves represented by lines drawn in the sand using a rake. The stones are said to represent mountains and islands.Additionally, the Rock Garden’s meanings are interpreted variously as a “Garden of Tiger Cubs Crossing,” or as the shape of the Chinese character for “heart” or “mind,” among other interpretations. Although the meaning remains unclear, the appeal of the Rock Garden is the quietening of the mind that one feels simply by looking. In the Rock Garden at Ryōan-ji, nature can be enjoyed in each season, but especially in spring, when the Rock Garden’s beauty is enhanced by the weeping cherry blossoms. Of course, in the summer the rich green color of the Japanese maple trees, and their leaves changing to red in autumn, are also beautiful. Owing to the snow that also falls in the Kyoto valley, there is also the view of the Rock Garden covered in snow. Sometimes called Hojo-teien (or The Chief Priest’s Garden), it said the garden was made to be viewed while sitting and looking out from the hojo, or the Chief Priest’s residence. By slowing down to view the Rock Garden, one can pass the time clearing the mind. 

Even outside the Rock Garden, Ryōan-ji is full of charm. Kyoyochi Pond at Ryōan-ji has become even more famous than the Rock Garden. In front of Kyoyochi Pond, there is a circuit-style pond-strolling garden with a boating pond, with beautiful changing leaves in the autumn. From this garden, Mt. Kinugasayama can be seen, and the contrast between the colors of the autumn leaves and the sky at dusk is an especially beautiful, popular thing to see. In addition, with their beautiful greens and pinks, the water lilies blooming radiantly on the water in the summer season are also recommended.Japan’s oldest type of camellia, the wabisuke camellia, is also found here in Ryōan-ji.  

Admission: Adult: ¥ 500 / Child: ¥ 300

Guidebook from Planetyze about Ryōan-ji
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Ryōan-ji
Tours of Ryōan-ji

Ninna-ji Temple

(image by

There are many National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties inside Ninna-ji. The Golden Hall that retains the notable atmosphere of a palace has been recognized as a National Treasure for its Heian Era style as it served as a residence for the Heian nobility. The Goei-do Hall which was constructed in the Momoyama style is an Important Cultural Property as is the temple’s five-storied pagoda, which, unlike other similar pagodas whose roofs usually get smaller the higher the building rises, has roofs that remain the same size, a characteristic of the Edo Era. As well, 14 other buildings have been recognized as Important Cultural Properties, a full experience of highlights of historical buildings. Beautiful paintings of Mahamayuri, Prince Shotoku and other figures on thefusuma sliding doors are incredible. Moreover, at the Reihokan, statues of the Amida Triad and Mahamayuri, the Buddhist text of the Sanjutcho Sasshi and other exhibits have been preserved as National Treasures and temple treasures.

The 500 late-blooming Omuro cherry trees at Ninna-ji are famous, and at a short height of 2-3 meters, they bloom as if they were creeping along the ground. With their deep colors and plump petals, the heavy cherry blossoms have been called otafuku sakura (homely woman cherries). Since these are late-blooming cherries, thesakura season at Ninna-ji in Kyoto is seen as the farewell look for the cherries, and the area is flooded with tourists during o-hanami (flower viewing) season. 

Admission: Adult: ¥ 500 / Child: ¥ 300

Guidebook from Planetyze about Ninna-ji Temple
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Ninna-ji Temple
Tours of Ninna-ji Temple

Tenryu-ji Temple

(image by

Founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, Arashiyama, Togetsukyo Bridge and Kameyama Park among other places were within the temple grounds. Burned down by fire 8 times, the buildings were mostly re-built in around 1900. However, the Sogenchi Pond Garden has retained its original form from 700 years ago, and was given Japan’s first designation as a Special Historic Site and Special Place of Scenic Beauty. In 1994, it was registered as a World Cultural Property as a Historic Monument of Ancient Kyoto.

For the strolling garden centering on Sogenchi Pond, it takes advantage of the natural landscapes of Arashiyama and Kameyama. Likening it to the tradition of the gateway to success, judging the Ryumon (gateway) waterfall where the large mountain rock fell from the rear of the pond, the Rigyo (carp fish) rock is placed on the side and shows its change into a dragon. With the wonderful cherry blossoms in spring and the changing leaves in fall, there is a beauty like a Japanese painting that never tires no matter how long you look at it. Another point of note is the lecture hall, Hatto, in which a dragon rising above the clouds had once been illustrated but due to severe damage, to commemorate the 650th anniversary of the founding of the temple, Unryu-zu was painted in 1997. Painted on the cypress board ceiling in ink, Unryu-zu, 9 meters in diameter, seems to glare at you no matter where you look and is truly spectacular. Except for special visits in spring and fall, the temple is only open to the public on weekends and holidays. In addition, every 2nd Sunday of the month from 9 a.m., anyone can participate in Zen meditation (training to focus the mind while sitting with your feet folded under you) for free at the Yuunan chamber. On the temple grounds, you can enjoy a vegetarian meal while viewing the garden at Shigetsu. Eating is also considered a part of training in Buddhism, and while vegetarian cuisine is a form of gourmet food, it is also a practice of a simple diet. Based on Buddhist teachings, animal ingredients are not used at all, and it is a cuisine that centers on vegetables and seaweed.

Admission: Adult: ¥ 500 / Child: ¥ 300

Guidebook from Planetyze about Tenryu-ji Temple
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Tenryu-ji Temple
Tours of Tenryu-ji Temple

Plan your trip to Kyoto

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.

Get Started