Two weeks ago I ventured out to Arashiyama, a popular small resort town near Kyoto. It was a weekday, but the crowds I had hoped to avoid were there in force, as it is a popular place for viewing autumn leaves in November-December. In April it is just as popular for the cherry blossoms.
Some attractive gardens are situated in a number of the local temples and shrines, including one that is a world heritage site. Cherry and Japanese maple trees abound. A crowded shopping street is packed with souvenir shops and restaurants. To get away from the crowds, there is a lovely short hike you can take along the nearby Oi river; if you can afford a riverboat, take that instead. Either way allows you nice views of the steep river banks covered in autumn foliage. Drivers use long poles in the shallow water to push their crafts along, sometimes latching onto boats with clever vendors selling hot drinks. Smaller two-person dinghies can be rented, too. I just ambled around for a few hours, but there are quiet inns and hot springs to entice travelers wishing to spend more time.