Perhaps the name Arashiyama (嵐山) doesn’t ring any immediate bells but most visitors to Japan have been told by their guide books about the bamboo forest to the west of Kyoto. This is Arashiyama’s famous bamboo grove, and it’s one of the top sightseeing hotspots in Japan.
After a couple of days in Kyoto it’s natural for most people to get temple fatigue and feel like doing something different, so a trip to the more rural west side of Kyoto can prove a satisfying change of scenery. Popular as a getaway for over 1000 years, here there are good opportunities for cherry blossom, autumn leaves, some nice old buildings, shopping streets, temples (of course) and a monkey park.
There is also a nice, wide river called Katsura (桂川) which is popular for slow-paced rowing boat trips. The river here is shallow-ish and has nice little grassy banks with trees.
If you go up river a bit, it becomes much more interesting for potential swims. The water creeps up the valley as it narrows, with the water becoming a magical, mineral-rich blue-green colour, deep in places, dotted with silvery volcanic rocks for jumping from, sitting on and taking in the beautiful, remote surroundings.
Disclaimer: It may be forbidden to swim in this part of the river, so do so at your own risk. As usual in Japan, it could be more just the case that it is not done so assumed forbidden. Do watch out for the (definitely not forbidden but definitely less exciting) cruise boats that may pass you by.