Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of Kyoto’s top sights and for good reason: standing amid these soaring stalks of bamboo is like being in another world. If you’ve been planning a trip to Kyoto, you’ve probably seen pictures of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove along with the torii tunnels of Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine and Kinkaku-ji Temple, it’s one of the most photographed sights in the city. But no picture can capture the feeling of standing in the midst of this sprawling Arashiyama Bamboo Grove the whole thing has a palpable sense of otherness that is quite unlike that of any normal forest we know of.
Arashiyama is famous for its Sagano Romantic Train ride, whether during Spring for its cherry blossoms or Autumn for the brilliant colors of its maple leaves. It is also renowned for its landmark Bridge, Togetsukyo which is used in many tourist promotion photos. However, there is another place that stands out and is equally as charming. This place is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove forest paths which are over 500 meters long, set between Tenryuji temple and Nonomiya Shrine.
The Japanese have a long history with bamboo, in myths and legends, metaphorically linking a mans’ strength with this plant. Many festivals also include the use of bamboo in various forms. We can see that from bamboo ice cream cups, buildings and fences. However it is not often we get the chance to see bamboo forests in their natural state that grow thick and line the path like they do here.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove The most beautiful spot is not at the beginning of the path, but further away past Tenryuji temple entrance, where Arashiyama Bamboo Grove grow further apart from each other, allowing it to become thick and beautiful.
Bamboo Forest is a tourist site in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan. On CNN, it was referred to as One of the most beautiful Arashiyama Bamboo Grove on Earth. The Ministry of the Environment included the Sagano Bamboo Forest on its list of “100 Soundscapes of Japan”.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove Japan
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of the top sights in Kyoto, Japan, with its dense pathway of bamboo that stretches as far as the eye can see. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is part of Sagano Bamboo Forest, which is located near the outskirts of Kyoto, just below the mountains. You wouldn’t go as far as to this is one of the top places to visit in the world (Kyoto as a whole absolutely is), it does have a simple yet ethereal beauty, and as pretty as the photos you’ve seen of it are, they do not do justice to the experience. It’s really something else to be standing in the midst of a sea of bamboo, seeing and hearing the stalks rustle, and light flitter in through the dense forest.
While the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is incredibly popular, we found it a little difficult to locate, and took us a bit of wandering to find. You’re probably going to take the JR Sagano line to the Saga Arashiyama Station to get here, and the station is a short walk (maybe 8-10 minutes) from the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove…if you don’t get lost. While everything else in the area is clearly marked on tourist maps outside the Arashiyama Station, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove isn’t on most of these maps of Kyoto–or at least the ones we saw.
To get here, just pretend you’re heading to Tenryu-ji Temple (this is a UNESCO World Heritage site–you likely will be going there, too) and follow the directions to that temple. If you’re not interested in the Tenryu-ji Temple, simply head north of its main entrance from the street just a bit, and then turn west into a path that leads into the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The path isn’t clearly marked as leading into the grove and the grove doesn’t start immediately at the street, but if you head back this way just outside the temple walls, you’ll run into it. Alternatively, visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove after leaving Tenry-ji Temple through its north entrance/exit (near the rear of the Temple) and you’ll find a path that leads directly and immediately into the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove Tour
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Sagano. Arashiyama is a pleasant, touristy district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons. The Togetsukyo Bridge is Arashiyama’s well known, central landmark. Many small shops, restaurants and other attractions are found nearby, including Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves and pleasure boats that are available for rent on the river.
North of central Arashiyama the atmosphere becomes less touristy and more rural, with several small temples scattered along the base of the wooded mountains. The area north of the Togetsukyo Bridge is also known as Sagano, while the name “Arashiyama” technically just refers to the mountains on the southern bank of the river but is commonly used to name the entire district.
One of the most enjoyable and convenient ways to travel around the Sagano area is by rental bicycle, which are available for around 1000 yen near the train stations. Cycling through rural residential areas and past fields while traveling between temples can be one of the most enjoyable parts of a visit to Arashiyama. There is also an attractive preserved town area near the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple.
Arashiyama becomes most attractive (and busy) around early April and the second half of November when the cherry blossom and fall color seasons usually peak. During the summer months, traditional cormorant fishing is practiced on the Hozu River for tourists to watch. Another good time to visit is during December’s Hanatoro illumination, when lanterns line the streets and bamboo groves.
The Togetsukyo Bridge (lit. “Moon Crossing Bridge”) is Arashiyama’s most iconic landmark. It was originally built during the Heian Period (794-1185) and most recently reconstructed in the 1930s. The bridge looks particularly attractive in combination with the forested mountainside in the background. A riverside park with dozens of cherry trees is located just adjacent to the bridge.
The walking paths that cut through the bamboo groves make for a nice walk or bicycle ride. The groves are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth. The bamboo has been used to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats at local workshops for centuries.
You can rent a bike or stroll the path to enjoy the beautiful sight of sunlight shining through the bamboo grove, casting soft shadows on the path. Especially when the wind blows through, you can see moving images exuding a tranquil feel. That is the true charm of these forests of the east.
You can also take a rickshaw ride from the young Japanese men and go through the bamboo forest path and around Arashiyama if you want. The price will be around 5000-7000 yen depend on where you want to go. To get to Arashiyama, take the JR train to Saga-Arashiyama station or take the Hankyu Railway to Arashiyama Hankyu Station. There will be signs showing the way to the bamboo forest. In case you don’t see one you can follow the signs for Tenryuji temple and Nonomiya Shrine. That will also get you to the bamboo forest.
Strolling though the bamboo forest will cost you nothing. You just have to prepare yourself and your camera to take this wonderful path.
Okochi Sanso Villa
This is the former villa of the popular actor Okochi Denjiro (1896-1962), located in the back of Arashiyama’s bamboo groves. Okochi Sanso consists of several different gardens and buildings, including living quarters, tea houses and gates. The buildings can only be viewed from the outside. Admission includes matcha green tea with a snack.
Monkey Park Iwatayama
Located in the Arashiyama mountains, the entrance to the monkey park can be found just south of the Togetsukyo Bridge. After hiking uphill for about ten minutes, visitors will find an open area with over a hundred monkeys roaming freely. There are also nice views down onto the city.
Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street
Much of this street along the way to the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple has been preserved in the style of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Many of the buildings are traditional machiya (“town houses”) that served as private residences but have since been converted into shops and restaurants.
The Rakushisha Residence is a thatched hut that belonged to the 17th century haiku poet Mukai Kyorai. Mukai was a student of Basho Matsuo, one of Japan’s greatest poets. Basho even composed a few poems here. Mukai named his residence Rakushisha (“fallen persimmon hut”) after a storm had taken down the fruits of the surrounding trees.
Tenryuji is the most important temple in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district. It was ranked first among the city’s five great Zen temples, and is now registered as a world heritage site. Tenryuji is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism.
Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Takauji dedicated the temple to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had just passed away. The two important historic figures used to be allies until Takauji turned against the emperor in a struggle for supremacy over Japan. By building the temple, Takauji intended to appease the former emperor’s spirits.
Tenryuji’s buildings, were repeatedly lost in fires and wars over the centuries, and most of the current halls, including the main hall (Hojo), drawing hall (Shoin) and temple kitchen (Kuri) with its distinctive small tower, date from the relatively recent Meiji Period (1868-1912).
Unlike the temple buildings, Tenryuji’s garden survived the centuries in its original form. Created by the famous garden designer Muso Soseki, who also designed the gardens of Kokedera and other important temples, the beautiful landscape garden features a central pond surrounded by rocks, pine trees and the forested Arashiyama mountains. Muso Soseki also served as Tenryuji’s first head priest.
Sagano Scenic Railway
The Sagano Scenic Railway, also known as the Sagano Romantic Train or Sagano Torokko is a sightseeing train line that runs along the Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka. Its charming, old fashioned trains wind their way through the mountains at a relatively slow pace, taking about 25 minutes to make the seven kilometer journey and giving passengers a pleasant view of the scenery as they travel from Arashiyama through the forested ravine and into rural Kameoka.
Originally part of the JR Sanin Line before it was replaced by a faster, straighter route in 1989, the scenic railway route was preserved and outfitted with nostalgic trains featuring wooden benches. The views along the line change with the seasons, and the train is particularly popular during the autumn color season from mid November to early December when the leaves along the ravine change color. Trains do not operate in winter from December 31 to the end of February.
Each train is made up of four enclosed cars (with windows that can be opened) and one fully open car. All seats are reserved, although standing tickets are sold if the seats are full. Tickets can be purchased at Torokko Saga Station, or at JR ticket offices in the Kansai Region. It is recommended to buy tickets early to ensure a seat during the peak seasons. There is no discount for round trip tickets. A small train museum and diorama can also be found at Torokko Saga Station (separate entry fees apply).
Travelers have several options once they reach Torokko Kameoka Station, the terminal station of the line. They can take the sightseeing train back to Arashiyama or walk five minutes to nearby Umahori Station from where they can catch a JR train back to Arashiyama or Kyoto. Last but not least, many travelers combine the sightseeing train with a Hozugawa River Cruise back to Arashiyama. A bus connects the train station to the departure point for the cruises.