Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Kyoto’s Stunning Spots off the Beaten Track in Nantan City

Kyoto isn’t just about all the temples and Geishas around Kyoto Station. Some of the prefecture’s most amazing spots are located away from the urban crowd and hidden in rural areas such as the Nantan City (南丹市). Just around 1 – 2 hours away from Kyoto’s city center, you will find Japan’s stunning rural landscape with the traditional thatched roof houses and some of the country’s most beautiful dams!

Here is a list of our recommended places to visit when you venture out of central Kyoto.

Chijōin Temple (池上院)

If you are looking for a hidden gem for cherry blossom viewing, the Chijōin Temple will surely entertain you with some of the most beautiful flowers in the country with the added bonus of low crowd levels!

Pink cherry blossoms and white Spiraea thunbergii flowers line both sides of the approach leading to the temple’s mountain gate. At the left of the gate, the weeping cherry tree has its flowers covered the branches that stretch so far down that they reach out and nearly touch the pond below!

At Chijōin Temple, cherry blossoms are planted right across the precinct, adding color to this solemn and quiet temple from early to mid-April each year.

How to Get to Chijōin Temple

The temple is around a 35-minute walk from JR Yagi Station (八木駅).

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Nantan City.

Ruri River Valley Natural Park (京都府立るり渓自然公園)

At the southwest of Nantan City, the Ruri River Valley Natural Park in the 4 km long Ruri River Valley is a designated National Place of Scenery Beauty.

The valley has a delicate landscape with a 530-meter tall plateau. The upstream of the valley is made of granite, whereas the downstream area is made of quartz trachyte. Uniquely shaped rocks, waterfalls, and an abyss scattered along the Ruri River accentuate the scenery.

At the uppermost part of the valley is the artificial Tsūten Lake (通天湖), which has tourist and recreational facilities close by. It attracts many nature lovers who are astonished by the views as they spend a relaxing weekend here.

For more information, please refer to our article on Ruri Valley!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Nantan City.

Rurikei Onsen for REST RESORT (京都るり渓温泉 for REST RESORT)

Just as its name suggests, Rurikei Onsen is a resort with accommodation facilities such as villas and glamping sites, barbecue areas, hot springs, and other leisure facilities. It is also known as the largest illumination venue in Kansai.

To many shy international tourists, probably the best thing about Rurikei Onsen is that most of the resort’s onsen pools require guests to wear swimmers to enter, which is a rare thing in Japan (´▽`*).

If you just finished trekking Rurikei River Valley, head to the Lantern Terrace (ランタンテラス). This part of the resort is divided into several zones for guests to relax in a variety of different ways.

You can easily spend the whole afternoon lolling around at the facility with capsules for you to lie down and have a snooze, tent-shaped hammocks, and bedrock baths.

For more information, please refer to our article on Ruri Valley!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Nantan City.

Ryūonji Temple (龍穏寺)

The most scenic spot in autumn in Nantan City is probably the Ryūonji Temple. The autumn foliage scenery here is so breathtaking that when the colors are at their peak, a large group of professional photographers will gather at the bottom of the approach leading to the temple’s mountain gate before sunrise to catch the kaleidoscope of colors!

It is one spot in Japan where you would want to dress in kimono for a photo while surrounded by vibrant colors. But even if it is the white snow of winter or the light green hues of spring, the natural colors that emanate from this place make it one of the top places to capture some amazing photos (=゚ω゚)ノ.

The autumn foliage season here starts in early November and peaks from mid to the end of the month.

Important: The temple isn’t open for tourism. Feel free to stroll around the precinct when the gate opens but stay quiet. Also, please don’t try to get into the worship halls. The area outside of the mountain gate is accessible 24/7.

How to Get to Ryūonji Temple

From JR Sonobe Station’s (園部駅) west exit, take Keihan Kyōto Kōtsū’s (京阪京都交通) route 44 – Enjō Line (園篠線) or route 40 – Hatta Sonobe Nōgei Line (八田線・園部農芸線) and get off at Funasaka (船阪). The temple is around a 10 to 15-minute walk from the bus stop.

  • Please refer to page 72 (weekdays) and page 73 (weekends and public holidays) of the timetable HERE for route 40
  • For route 44, please refer to page 76 (weekdays) and page 77 (weekends and public holidays)

Hiyoshi Dam (日吉ダム)

If you ever wonder what the interior of a dam might look like, don’t miss out on Hiyoshi Dam when you come to Kyoto!

The Kansai region‘s biggest dam is also a facility to learn about the power of flooding and how a dam can effectively minimize the damage of too much rain and maintain a steady water supply to the downstream areas.

On a super hot day, when it is 40 degrees outside, the best place to be is at the dam’s exhibition area. Without an air conditioner, the temperature is almost 20 degrees lower!

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Hiyoshi Dam has a height of 67.4 meters and a width of 438 meters. From its size and the thickness of the solid walls, it isn’t hard to understand why people also call it “Warship Dam”.

The dam can be entered freely between 10 am and 4 pm. But please avoid Wednesdays and from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January. If Wednesday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day instead.

If you are lucky, you might even be able to see the magnificent amount of water that gets discharged from the dam from time to time!

The Surprising Facts of Hiyoshi Dam

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

A part of the dam’s structure is the looped-shaped bridge which is the perfect observation spot when the dam is releasing water into the Katsura River (桂川). It is just fantastic to see how the river seems to be sucking in the water from the dam!

The beauty of the dam is also one of the few dams in the world that are recognized by architectural societies when it was granted the Architectural Institute of Japan Award in 1999.

Lastly, before you go, remember to grab one of the Dam Cards (ダムカード) from the dam’s management office (日吉ダム管理所) as a souvenir.

Please refer to THIS MAP for the location. It is the building with the green roof on the map to the dam’s left. If you don’t want to climb to the top of the dam for a panoramic view of the surrounding nature, there is a visitor’s lift that is marked as “見学者用エレベーター” on the map.

The Dam Lake of Hiyoshi Dam is a Dragon?

The artificial dam lake – Amawaka Lake (天若湖) created by the completion of the Hiyoshi Dam has a hidden secret.

Check out the lake’s shape on the map, doesn’t it look like a dragon?

According to local legend, It is said that the deity of the Amewaka Shrine ( 天稚神社), which previously stood where the lake is today, made the shape of the lake into a dragon to bring peace and prosperity to the area.

With the beautiful scenery around the dam and various facilities in the Roadside Station Springs Hiyoshi at its foot, this part of Kyoto is flourishing with as many as 550,000 visitors annually thanks to the dragon-shaped Amawaka Lake (≧▽≦)?

How to Get to Hiyoshi Dam

From Monday to Saturday, from JR Hiyoshi Station (日吉駅), take Nantan Municipal Bus’S (南丹市営バス) Hiyoshi Dam Line ( 日吉ダム線 ) and get off at Hiyoshi Onsen (ひよし温泉) The number of services is limited, so please refer to the timetable HERE to plan ahead. As the timetable is only in Japanese, please use the bus stop’s Japanese name to read.

  • Refer to the last table at the end of page 3 for serves departing from Hiyoshi Station
  • Refer to the last table at the bottom of page 2 for serves departing for Hiyoshi Station

For Sundays and public holidays, take the Miyama Sonobe Line (美山園部線) and get off at Springs Hiyoshi (スプリングスひよし).

  • Refer to the longest table on page 12 for serves departing from Hiyoshi Station
  • Refer to the longest table on page 13 for serves departing for Hiyoshi Station

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Nantan City.

Roadside Station Springs Hiyoshi (道の駅 スプリングスひよし)

Roadside Station Springs Hiyoshi, just next to Hiyoshi Dam, isn’t the normal roadside station you might have visited elsewhere in Japan. It is more like a recreation center.

Apart from the local specialties corner and restaurants that all roadside stations in Japan are equipped with, there are also several different big and small onsen pools.

After indulging yourself in the hot spring pools for a while, take a break in their sauna room or dry yourself off and relax on one of the warm rock beds for some more health benefits (=゚ω゚)ノ.

If bathing isn’t your thing, how about chilling at one of their swimming pools? A kid’s swimming pool is also there for young families to use! They even provide swimmer rental services (^_-)-☆.

For those who feel like barbequing the fresh produce sold at Roadside Station Springs Hiyoshi, you can! All you need to do is remember to grab the necessary equipment from the shop (you will have to pay, of course) and rent one of the barbeque stations at the side of the Katsura River (桂川)!

If you have your own tent and camping equipment when you travel around Japan, you can also camp overnight at one of the camping sites around the dam. For more information, please refer to their website HERE and translate it with Google Chrome.

Roadside Station Springs Hiyoshi’s Opening Hours and Admission Fees to Its Facilities

  • The onsen and swimming pools are open from 10 am to 9:30 pm with the last admission at 9 pm
  • The BBQ garden is available from 10 am to 5 pm
  • The restaurants in the roadside station open from 11 am to 6 pm on weekdays and close later at 7 pm on weekends and public holidays
    • The last order will be taken an hour before closure
    • The majority of dishes on the menu including the famous Hiyoshi Dam Curry aren’t vegetarian. To confirm which dish you can eat when you get there, please utilize the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article
  • Roadside Station Springs Hiyoshi is closed on Wednesdays and on the 30th and the 31st of December
    • If Wednesday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day
  • Hot spring and swimming pool admission fees are
    • 800 yen for adults per entry
    • 400 yen for elementary school students per entry
    • Towels can be rented at 150 yen
    • Swimmer rental is 200 yen
    • Goggles can be rented at 300 yen
    • The swimming cap is rent-free
  • A bedrock bath costs 550 yen for adults. Entry is not permitted for children due to safety concerns
  • Renting a station at the BBQ garden will cost 2,200 yen

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Nantan City.

Miyama Kayabuki no Sato (美山 かやぶきの里)

When you come to Japan, visiting one of the few villages that have traditional thatched roof houses is a must!

The good news is, you don’t need to travel all the way to Shirakawa-go. Just in Kyoto, Miyama Kayabuki no Sato (美山 かやぶきの里) is a hamlet that preserves how Japan used to look a couple of centuries ago (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Miyama-Kayabuki-no-Sato-Soba-Field-Nantan-Kyoto-Japan
Ⓒ photo-ac.com

To find out more about the village, please refer to our article on Miyama Kayabuki no Sato!

Ototani no Taki Falls (音谷の滝)

Ⓒ 一般社団法人南丹市美山観光まちづくり協会

Apart from the dams, the Hora District (洞地区) north of Miyama Town in Nantan City also has a series of unexplored waterfalls. In particular, the 65-meter-high Ototani no Taki Falls is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in the area.

The trail leading to Ototani no Taki Falls was just recently created by the locals. Thanks to their efforts, we can now walk to the vicinity of the waterfall basin.

As the trailhead is usually closed to the public, you will have to go with a trekking tour. Although it will cost some money, it is the best way to fully enjoy what this part of Kyoto has to offer.

Your guide will not only lead you to some of the most stunning places in the Hora District, but he will also talk about the flora and fauna living in the area.

For more information and to book the tour, please refer to HERE.

Lunch is also included in this tour. Please contact [email protected] in advance after you book to arrange a vegetarian lunch for you if required.

Ⓒ 一般社団法人南丹市美山観光まちづくり協会

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Nantan City.

Ōno Dam (大野ダム)

Ⓒ 一般社団法人南丹市美山観光まちづくり協会

If you are looking for a hidden gem in Kyoto but want to avoid the massive crowds to admire the cherry blossom and autumn foliage, come to Ōno Dam, which is just a 15-minute bus ride from JR Wachi Station (和知駅).

Completed in 1961, the dam located upstream of the Yura River (由良川) is a multipurpose dam that plays an essential role in flood control in the area.

Around the banks of the splendid dam lake – Nijinoko (虹の湖), meaning rainbow lake, there are around 1,000 cherry trees planted when construction was completed. So if you ever arrive in the city center of Kyoto too late for the cherry blossom season, make some effort and come to Ōno Dam. The flowers here usually peak around a week later than the trees closer to Kyoto Station.

To enjoy the autumn color, you can take a trek along Nijinoko. The approximately 6 km promenade that surrounds the lake will take around two hours to get back to the bus stop. You can also cut the course short and head back once you reach Ōno Dam instead of trekking further into the forest.

HERE is the map of the area. The bus stop is marked by a white lollypop-like stand. There are a couple of lookouts around Niji no Hiroba (虹の広場) close to Ōno Dam for a wide view of the dam and surrounding nature!

Sightseeing boats also tour around the lake at the cost of 600 yen per person for 30 minutes. And if you would like to paddle yourself, you can rent a small boat from 800 yen per hour per boat.

Cherry Blossom and Autumn Foliage Festivals at Ōno Dam

A cherry blossom festival is usually held in early April each year for people to gather and adore the beautiful scenery created by nature.

Temporary stalls selling local specialties and mouthwatering food are also there to make the event more interesting. At night, the trees will be lit up, creating gorgeous reflections on the lake’s surface.

Ⓒ 一般社団法人南丹市美山観光まちづくり協会
Ⓒ 一般社団法人南丹市美山観光まちづくり協会

For the exact date and more information about this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival, please refer to the official website HERE!

The cherry blossom season at Ōno Dam is usually from early to mid-April.

In mid-November, when the autumn color is at its brightest, it is when the Autumn Leaves Festival is held.

Again, the event will see the locals and tourists gather together for some delicious food while enjoying the breathtaking painting created by nature.

For more information, please refer to the official website HERE!

Ⓒ 一般社団法人南丹市美山観光まちづくり協会

How to Get to Ōno Dam

From JR Wachi Station (和知駅), change for Nantan Municipal Bus’s (南丹市営バス) Ōno Line (大野線) and get off at Ōno Dam (大野ダム).

The number of services is limited, so please refer to the timetable HERE to plan ahead. As the timetable is only in Japanese, please use the bus stop’s Japanese name to read.

  • For weekdays
    • Refer to the first table on page 8 for serves departing from Wachi Station
    • Refer to the second last blue table on the right on page 9 for serves departing for Wachi Station
  • For Saturdays
    • Refer to the first table on the right on page 10 for serves departing from Wachi Station
    • Refer to the last blue table on the right on page 11 for serves departing for Wachi Station
  • For Sundays and public holidays
    • Refer to the orange table on the right on page 13 for serves departing from Wachi Station
    • Refer to the orange table on the right on page 12 for serves departing for Wachi Station

Ōno Dam Visitor Center (大野ダムビジターセンター)’s Opening Hours

  • From April to November: 9:30 am to 5 pm
  • From December to March: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • The center is closed from the 28th of December to the 4th of January

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Nantan City.

Ishida Farmhouse (石田家住宅)

For those interested in the oldest farmhouse in Japan, remember to drop by the Ishida Farmhouse, which isn’t too far away from Ōno Dam.

The house that was built in 1650 is now a designated National Important Cultural Property. The thatched roof was newly replaced in 2021.

One thing to note is the interior only opens from 10 am to 4 pm on weekends and public holidays. So plan your visit ahead.

Ⓒ 一般社団法人南丹市美山観光まちづくり協会

How to Get to Ishida Farmhouse

From JR Wachi Station (和知駅), change for Nantan Municipal Bus’s (南丹市営バス) Ōno Line (大野線) and get off at Kashihara (樫原).

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Nantan City.

Head to Kyotamba Town Next Door for Some Delicious Black beans and Chestnuts Products and Some Amazing Sceneries

Kyotamba is a quiet town with abundant nature in the central part of Kyoto Prefecture. With the large temperature differences between day and night time, the town is renowned for its black beans and chestnut production.

So how about heading to one of the roadside stations first for some delicious sweets and enjoying them in the astonishing landscapes around the town?

For more information, please check out our Kyotamba Town article!

Koto-Falls-Kyotamba-Kyoto-Japan
Click the photo to find out more about this magnificent waterfall!

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