Arashiyama Hanatouro ( Lantern festival)

arashiyama Travel Blog

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My son and the friend he met on the train Kaito


This festival is about to start again for another year on December 9th. It will run for approximately one week, so if you are going to Kyoto very soon. It is a chance to see a great festival.

Having lived in osaka for 8 years I thought i had seen virtually all the tourist things in Kansai when last week I came across an advertisement for  the lantern festival  held in Arashiyama so I thought I would check it out with my 4 year old son.

So yesterday I boarded the train for the 45 minute train trip to Arashiyama ,380 yen from Hankyu Umeda station from Osaka.

My son from togetsuyo bridge
While on the train my son attracted the attention of another family and we started talking to them until we arrived in Arashiyama. They had a child the same age and they didn't want to say good bye to each other so we spent half the night with them.

After getting out at Arashiyama station the first thing we see is a trail of lanterns which marked the route to follow. We followed this for a few minutes until we reached the Katsura river area. On the river bank they had a large paper screen lit up and my son and his new found friend ran over to it and started making animal shapes with their hands and the shadow would reflect onto the screen. My son loved it always asking me what's this? what's this? of course I had no idea what they were kids have a wonderful imagination don't they.

the garden of nonomiya shrine

We followed the river up a couple of 100 metres until we came to Arashiyama's famous landmark the Togetsukyo bridge( translated to Moon Crossing Bridge) which was named by Emperor Kameyama in 1330 however the bridge has been destroyed numerous times and the current bridge was constructed in 1934. The bridge all lit up in laterns looked very beautiful with the lights reflecting on the water and Mount Arashiyama all lit up with its colourful Autumn leaves in the background. I planned to take a photo of it but there were too many people so I thought I would get a shot on the way home unfortunatley my son had fallen asleep and I was carrying him so no photo of this sorry.

I found out that our new found friends mother was a flower arrangement teacher so we crossed the bridge and turned left following the river on the other side until we came to a corner where there was a flower arrangement exhibition so we looked at a few arrangements which were so carefully and delicately arranged and then went back the way we came.

The garden of Nonomiya shrine
  There were many food stalls here so my son and I bought some takoyaki ( octopus tenticles cooked in some kind of flour ball ) I guess that's how you would describe it but their really good I would reccomend them to anyone plus it's typical Osakan food.

After eating we said goodbye to our friends and went our seperate way we walked up through the town of Arashiyama until we came to Tenruji temple (heavenly dragon temple) unfortunately it was closed they have decided not to light up their grounds and temples for the festival but i had been here before so I didn't mind so much but if you hadn't you would have been a little disapointed as this is the most famous temple in Arashiyama.

Tenryuji temple is one of the major temples of the Rinzai school of zen. It was built in 1339 on the former site of the Emperor Go Daiga's villa after a priest had dreamt of a dragon rising from the nearby river.

one of the lanterns marking the course
the dream was interpreted that the emperor's spirit was uneasy and the temple was built as appeasement and this is how the temple got its name Heavenly dragon. The present building was constructed in early 1900.

We continued past the temple until we came to Nonomiya Jinja This shrine was open and free so we walked in looked at the garden that was lit up in lanterns and a light shone on a beautiful maple tree all in its beautiful Autumn leaves.

Visitors come here from all over Japan to pray for happy marriages and ease in  child delivery.  This shrine was made famous in the novel of The Tale of Genji widely recognized as the worlds first novel. This is where the Imperial princess spent a year preparing to become a High Priestess of the Grand Shrine in Ise, because the choosen princess was to live in remote Ise until the emperor abdicated or died , Nonomiya shrine was associated with sadness and parting.

Autumn leaves of Jojakoji temple

While walking further up the street we saw our first Maiko (Geisha girl in training). The 2 Maiko looked absolutely stunning dressed in their traditional kimonos and think white painted faces with only the back of their neck in their natural skin colour. At this stage we also saw rickshaws which were traditional transportation years ago where 2 people can sit on a carriage and are pulled by a man and taken to other attractions of Arashiyama I was suprised at the great speed that the person could pull the carriage as well as run and avoid hitting people in the large crowd.

We kept following the lanterns and as the route turned of the main street into a narrow pathway it lead up into a bamboo forrest. The bamboo was a lot taller than I had imagined and was only lit up by the lanterns which, gave it an eerie feeling  as no moonlight entered the forrest.

The trail of lanterns
I watched my son who was starring at the bamboo intensely slowly walk along the path when he stopped and looked up at me and said "daddy why aren't there any pandas. I laughed at him and I had  to try and explain to him that Pandas only live in China and not Japan. He seemed a little dissapointed with that but now he wants to go to China.

We came to a fork in the bamboo forrest with an arrow pointing one way towards Okochi Sanso villa and the other way pointing towards jojakuji temple. Okochi Sanso villa is the home of the late Denjiro Okachi, a famous actor in samurai films in the 1930's.  The home is supposed to have a beautiful garden but the admission was a very high 1000 yen about 10$ so we thought we would follow the Jojakuji route.

Following the lanterns we came to some open fields and then walked about 300  metres to Jojakuji temple 400 yen entrance. The temple was set high on top of a hill to get to the top you had to climb the steps on either side of the steps was a line of trees in all there beautiful Autumn leaves it looked really nice. Once on top of the hill we walked around the grounds of the temple which consisted of three or four buildings. Behind one of the buildings there was a beautiful moss garden we sat on the porch and drank a lovely cup of green tea which warmed up the body nicely.

After relaxing for awhile we made the long walk back to the station to take the train back home.


YantiSoeparno says:
Nice story, Chris... Thanks for sharing ;-)
Posted on: Nov 30, 2008
sylviandavid says:
Very nice write up.... Sylvia
Posted on: Nov 29, 2008
yasuyo says:
It seems like good experience for your son also! You're nice dad;)
Posted on: Nov 28, 2008
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My son and the friend he met on th…
My son and the friend he met on t…
My son from togetsuyo bridge
My son from togetsuyo bridge
the garden of nonomiya shrine
the garden of nonomiya shrine
The garden of Nonomiya shrine
The garden of Nonomiya shrine
one of the lanterns marking the co…
one of the lanterns marking the c…
Autumn leaves of Jojakoji temple
Autumn leaves of Jojakoji temple
The trail of lanterns
The trail of lanterns
photo by: yzzinecinue