Bike Rides Around Kyoto

September 14, 2016 2016年9月14日

Visiting bike rental shops has become a favorite pastime of mine when traveling to new places. Bicycles can get you to your destination faster than on foot, but at the same time, they still allow you to stay engaged with your surroundings and take in the scenery at a relaxing pace. Add to the fact that it is also good exercise, which can help develop an appetite for some good local cuisine, it can be hard to resist wanting to take a bicycle around everywhere. With a variety of bike rental shops to choose from, riding around Kyoto couldn’t be any easier. Rentals are simple: after a quick deposit and signing just a few forms, you’re off – with the wind blowing through your hair.


There is definitely a more ancient feel to the city of Kyoto. The graceful poise and traditions of Japanese culture can be experienced on street corners and within the bustling alleyways. The manner in which a large number of people go about their daily lives seems to be a reflection of times long past, many centuries ago. As an observer, it is easy to be completely captivated by the abandonment of modernity in certain areas of the city. Gion, the famous entertainment and Geisha quarter, is a good example of this. Riding through the tiny alleyways and cobbled streets that wrap around teahouses and quaint shops unveils a different side of Japan. In this area, many tourists and visitors dress up in traditional kimonos and take to the streets. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a real geisha, or a miko making an errand run between teahouses.


It is roughly 12 kilometers from Gion to Arashiyama’s Sagano Bamboo Forest, depending on which exact area of the Gion district you’re riding out from and which route you take. Consisting of mostly flat roads, the journey isn’t overly strenuous. The Sagano Bamboo Forest is a magical place that has an ethereal quality to it, created by the filtered overhead sunlight that peeks through the towering bamboo. Walking further into the lush bamboo grove and past the Tenryū-ji temple entrance, you can find one of many spectacular views of the dense forest. Taking in the surroundings, it is easy to see why bamboo is so prevalent in Japanese mythology and legends. In traditional Japanese culture, bamboo is symbolic of strength and prosperity – and it is also widely used for construction, household goods, and textiles in Japan.


After treating yourself to a matcha-flavored soft serve, you will be ready to make your way to the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine. It is just a 13 kilometer bike ride from Arashiyama to Fushimi Inari without any major inclines or declines. The relaxing ride will expose you to the raw parts of the city and the Japanese suburbs. After parking the bike at the shrine entrance, you can begin to make your way up the footpath, which is lined with bountiful carts of delectable street food. The shrine was dedicated to the god of rice and sake – and since the hike to the top takes around two hours, this might be a fitting location to replenish your energy by enjoying some local delicacies and taking a short rest.


The stunning shrine gardens and seemingly never-ending torii gates that repeat in alluring patterns overhead guide visitors up the mountain. The vibrant orange torii tunnel, made up of over 4,000 torii, is the perfect visual backdrop for the kimono-wearing locals and tourists who are making their trek up to the top of the peak. The shrine also features many foxes, which are considered to be messengers for the god of the grains, Inari Ōkami. Standing in the tranquility of the gardens and experiencing the sheer number of torii, you cannot help but be filled with a sense of awe and wonder. It was the perfect ending for my bike tour around Kyoto.


Contributor & Photographer: Mireille Paul

寄稿者&カメラマン: Mireille Paul

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