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Stepping Into The Magic Forest – Bamboo Grove Kyoto

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For a brief moment, we are completely alone in this part of the forest. So I stop, close my eyes, and just stand still, feeling the gentle breeze against my face and listening to the wind rustling in the bamboo leaves high above my head. I take a deep breath of the fresh air which smells of the damp forest. Unfortunately, the silent moment only lasts for a couple of minutes before the area is yet again packed with noisy posing tourists snapping selfies.

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Tall bamboo trees rustling in the wind
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Beautiful bamboo trees

I open my eyes and look up at the sky, admiring the thick green bamboo stalks that seem to continue endlessly up towards the heavens. The light is absolutely beautiful with the sun barely peeking through the bright green bamboo leaves and the stalks swinging in the wind. The wind is making the trunks creak eerily as they collide and twist. I feel like I have entered another world, like a place taken out of the fairy tale of Alice in Wonderland. It feels like a magic forest!

I snap out of my Zen moment as a group of giggling Japanese teenage girls dressed in beautiful colorful kimonos bump into me in their attempt to take the mandatory group selfie. My moment is lost, and it`s time to follow the stream of tourists further into the bamboo grove……

If you haven´t decided on where to stay in Kyoto yet, and are struggling with choosing which area of Kyoto to stay in, check out our guide on the best hotels and areas of Kyoto to stay in.

Bamboo Grove Kyoto – The Kyoto Bamboo Forest

We are visiting Japan’s Sagano Bamboo Forest, in Arashiyama area on the outskirts of Kyoto city, popularly referred to as the Kyoto Bamboo forest. The Sagano Bamboo Forest is one of Japans most popular tourist attractions, and if you are among those who click on articles with headlines like “Places To See Before You Die” or “The Most Beautiful Forests In The World” chances are that you have seen photos of The Kyoto Bamboo Forest as it is usually on those kinds of lists.

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Me walking through the Kyoto Bamboo Grove

It is very popular among young Japanese girls and couples to put on their kimonos and head to the Bamboo Grove to go for a walk and take photos. Here are two beautifully kimono dressed girls that we stalked:

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Beautiful Japanese kimonos

So the days where you could have the forest for yourself are long gone! The crowds are worst on the weekends when Japanese day-trippers take over the area. Arashiyama area is particularly popular during the spring cherry blossom and fall color seasons.

We visited the forest on a Tuesday, at the beginning of August, so it was not too busy.

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You can also go through the Bamboo Forest on a carriage

Although the beautiful bamboo forest in itself brings in the tourist masses, the distinct rustling sounds in the bamboo have become an attraction in itself! A couple of years ago the Ministry of Environment even put the Sagano Bamboo Forest on its list of “100 Soundscapes of Japan” – a list of everyday noises/sounds intended to encourage locals to stop and enjoy nature’s music.

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Soooooo many trees!

The bamboo grove is easily accessed directly from the main street of Arashiyama (close to the train station), a little to the north of the entrance to Tenryu-ji Temple (exit the north gate of the temple, take a left, and you’ll be in the grove in no time).

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Kyoto Bamboo Grove is very popular, but it is possible to find a peaceful moment

There is just one main path through the forest, which leads slowly uphill, and is a very easy walk. Once you get to the top of the small hill, you reach the entrance to the former villa and garden of the famous silent actor Okochi Denjiro right in front of you. We did however not visit this villa and the garden.

Tenryu-ji Temple

The Arashiyama area of Kyoto contains several Shinto shrines and temples, like the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tenryu-Ji temple located right outside the bamboo forest. The temple is also one of the Kyoto-gozan – one of five major temples of Kyoto.

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The beautiful Tenryu-Ji temple

The Arashiyama area consists of seven Shinto temples in total, but unfortunately, we were a bit short on time so we only visited the Tenryu-ji temple. There is no coincidence that so many Shinto temples are located here, as in Japan Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are often situated near bamboo groves. Bamboo forests are viewed as a clever means of warding off evil, while the bamboo itself is seen as a symbol of strength.

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Tenryu-Ji temple
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Tenryu-Ji temple

The Tenryu-ji temple was built in 1339 by a shogun in honor of the passing of Japan’s emperor Tenryu-ji.

The temple also has one of Japan’s most incredible Zen gardens and is today the headquarters of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism.

The temple’s exquisite pond garden dates back to the Heian period (794-1185).

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The pond garden at Tenryu-Ji temple
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Lots of colorful fish at the pond of Tenryu-Ji temple

Other attractions in the Arashiyama area includes the Togetsukyo Bridge (also called the “Moon Crossing Bridge”), the former villa and garden of the famous silent actor Okochi Denjiro, and Monkey Park Iwatayama. There is also Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street with its old traditional townhouses, and the ancient hut of the 17th-century haiku poet Mukai Kyorai – Rakushisha Residence.

We loved the Sagano Bamboo Grove!! It is one of Kyoto’s and Japan`s top sights and that for good reason – it is really beautiful and standing among these soaring stalks of bamboo is like being in another world! If you are planning a trip to Kyoto, you should definitely visit the Bamboo Forest! Along with the Torii gates of Fushimi-Inari Shrine, Nijo Castle, Kyomizudera Temple, and Kinkaku-ji Temple, it is one of the most famous sights in Kyoto and for a good reason.

⇒ Check out what else you should not miss when visiting Kyoto in our recommended 3-day Kyoto Itinerary

Even though there are a lot of stunning pictures out there of the bamboo forest, no picture can capture the feeling of standing in the midst of the sprawling green bamboo grove listening to the wind rustle in the leaves – you have to feel it yourself!

The bamboo forest is perfect to combine with the scenic boat ride on the Hozugawa River. The 2-hour Hozugawa River Cruise starts in Kameoka in west Kyoto, 30 km west of Kyoto Station. The wooden riverboat will take you to through the scenic Hozu-kyo Ravine and to the Arashiyama area of Kyoto where the bamboo is.


How To Get To Kyoto Bamboo Grove?

From Kyoto Station:

  • Bus: Kyoto City Bus #28 or Kyoto Bus #71, #72, #73.
  • Train: JR Sagano Line to Saga Arashiyama Station. (We did this, and it was very easy and smooth)

From Kyoto downtown:

  • Bus: Kyoto City Bus #28 or #11 (#11 also can be caught from Shijo Kawaramachi).
  • Train: Keifuku Arashiyama Line to Arashiyama Station (from Shijo Omiya Station).

How Much Does Kyoto Bamboo Grove Cost?

Entering the Bamboo Grove Kyoto is free. There are several temples in the area, which have entry fees.

Tenryu-ji Temple: 500 JPY = 5 us$ per person

When Is The Kyoto Bamboo Grove Open?

The Sagano Bamboo Forest never closes and is open 24/7.

Tenryu-ji Temple is open daily, 8:30 am. – 5:30 pm.

Where To Stay In Kyoto

Kyoto has a lot of accommodation options to choose from in many different areas of Kyoto. Click here to read our complete guide to our favorite Kyoto areas and hotels.

Century Hotel Kyoto
We highly recommend this hotel, as we loved it! The best hotel we stayed at throughout our entire Japan trip!  

Century Hotel Kyoto
The beautiful lobby at Century Hotel Kyoto

The rooms are big and beautiful decorated, with huge comfortable beds. Great service from the staff and excellent location just next to Kyoto Train Station (100 m walk). You will love this hotel!
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Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo
We stayed at Hotel Mystays in Tokyo and it was fantastic! Hotel Mystays is a business hotel chain. The rooms are not the biggest but have everything you need and more (even slippers!).

The location of Mystays Kyoto is perfect, close to Maruyama park and many shrines, and very close to a subway station (300 m) and bus stops. There is a good selection of restaurants nearby and there is a supermarket next to the hotel. It is a quiet hotel, and all rooms have good wifi. There is a laundry room with washing machines and a dryer and a coffee machine in the lobby that you can use for free.
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Karasuma Kyoto Hotel
A nice budget hotel centrally located with plenty of eating places within a short walk. It is within walking distance to the Gion area and to Nishiki market. Reasonably sized rooms (big for Japan) and have a small fridge and coffee/tea maker. The breakfast is delicious. The bathroom is fully equipped with all the necessary toiletries.

There is a Starbucks next to the hotel, and the hotel is close to a big supermarket, many restaurants, as well as bus stops and a subway station (2 stops from Kyoto Station). Take subway Karasuma Line to Shijo Station (exit 6).
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Travel Guides

We used Lonely Planet`s Japan Travel Guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):



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Hover over the image below and press the red “Save button: 

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Have you been to the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto? If not, can you picture yourself visiting it? Have you visited other amazing forests? Please leave a comment in the comment area below! If you liked this article, please share it on social media. Thanks! 🙂 

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Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

52 Comments

  1. Amazing photos!
    I was about to visit bamboo forest when I was in Kioto, but unfortunately there was not enough time to see everything so I needed to choose something (and I decided to go to Hiroshima by shinkansen on that day).
    But I feel I will be back in Japan again someday 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Isabella!! We also had too few days to see everything we wanted in Kyoto. It is such a big city with so many sights! You should definitely visit the Bamboo Forest next time. We loved it! It was one of our top three highlights of Kyoto! 🙂

      Reply
  2. I really love your article about the Bamboo Forest. Amazing pictures as well. Japan has been very high on our bucket list and it will definitely shift up a level. Many years ago I visited a bamboo “forest” in France, it was actually more a small park and I loved it. The sound of the scraping bamboo when it moves in the wind is very relaxing. I have visited lot’s of amazing forests, but too much to list here. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks a million Sabine! So happy to hear that you like my article!! 🙂 Yeah, the sound of bamboo swinging in the wind is really special and kind of magic. Could listen to it for ages. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Wow. I have seen photos of this once before, but yours are so lovely. Now I have to add the Kyoto Bamboo Grove to my bucket list! I would just like to stand there and listen to the bamboo for a while, if I can sneak away from all the tourists.

    Reply
    • Thanks Rhonda!!! So glad you like our photos!!! 🙂 The Bamboo Forest in Kyoto is really special, we loved it! Listening to the bamboo swaying in the wind is a must-try-zen-moment!! 🙂 You will love it!

      Just try to avoid going there in the weekends. During the cherry blossom season (April, May) and autumn (September, October) this area gets packed with people. It is also more quiet there in the early morning and late afternoon.

      Reply
  4. I was actually disappointed when I went. I thought it was would be bigger and less paved road-y. Also it was packed with people.
    I did make up for it when lots of green tree soft-serve though.

    Reply
    • Ah, such a shame that you got disappointed and didn`t enjoy it! It was actually not so crowded when we were there, but we avoided the weekend and did visit Japan in the off-season (July-August). We also went there in the afternoon. Our disappointed moment in Kyoto was the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion). It was just too crowded and people were really pushy and rude in order to get the perfect selfie. Not fun at all!

      Reply
      • That’s funny because I actually liked that temple out of all the ones I saw. Or at least, I got better pictures from it.

        Reply
  5. This is so cool! The bamboo forest looks gorgeous, of course, but those temples are just as beautiful too, and the koi fish in the pond. It just all looks like how I picture Japan. BTW – I really love your dress (Maria) 😀

    Reply
    • Yeah I agree, this temple is very typical Japanese! It was so relaxing watching the colourful fish swim around in the pond. So cool that you like my dress! Your comment about my dress made so happy! 🙂 I love it too, it is actually my favourite dress! 🙂

      Reply
  6. I loved your pictures! Thansk for so many useful tips for a visit to Japan. Enjoy and I hope you will have a great time further on as well.

    Reply
    • Tusen takk Bente!!! 🙂 Japan er et fantastisk land å reise i!! Så mye å se og oppleve, og veldig lett å komme seg rundt for det går alltid et tog. Anbefales!

      Reply
  7. Herlig! Det ser utrolig vakkert ut. Har sett stedet før på bilder fra slike lister du nevner 😉 Synd at det er så folksomt der, men slik skjønnhet har jo dessverre oftest en pris.

    Reply
    • Hei Renate! Ja som regel er de fineste stedene også de mest populære, ihvertfall når de er så lett tilgjengelige som denne skogen er. Vi var ganske heldige da, var ikke så sinnsykt mange folk da vi var der. Absolutt et av våre høydepunkt i Kyoto! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Wow! Great Photos! I was just at the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest two months ago. I found the crowds very trying but it was extraordinarily beautiful. Did you happen to find the foot onsen in the train station there? That was a fantastic treat after walking around all day!

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah! A million thanks! So happy you liked our photos! 🙂 Yep, the crowds can be pretty bad in the Bamboo Forest, but I guess we were lucky as it was not too packed when we were there.

      No, unfortunately we did not see the foot onsen in the train station. 🙁 Wish we had though, as it sounds awesome!

      Reply
  9. Beautiful pictures! Ive never been to Japan but I would love to visit the magic forest. Thanks so much for the information, and hopefully I can visit on low season. I would be amazing to be able to wander around this place with no one else.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Alejandra! 🙂 You should definitely visit Japan and put this Bamboo Forest on your list over places to see in Japan. It is a great country with beautiful nature, cities, temples and shrines! I am not sure if you will ever be able to wander around in this forest completely alone. But if you visit in low season and early in the morning, you will at least be alone some places along the path.

      Reply
  10. I’ve never heard of Kyoto Bamboo Grove before. I can definitely see how it can be magical walking through the bamboo and ending up in a zen garden. Thanks for sharing and linking up to the #WeekendWanderlust this week. Loved your pictures as well. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Carmen!! Yeah, both the sound of the rustling bamboo and the sun barely shining through the leaves of the bamboo makes it a really special and magic place to go for a walk. Loved it! 🙂

      Reply
  11. I’ve heard of this amazing place before and it’s on my list of places to visit when I eventually go to Japan! I reeeeaaallly want to go to Japan, so I absolutely loved reading about this! Your pictures are gorgeous, I love how green it is. I’d love to explore the temple, too.

    Reply
    • A million thanks Lauren!! 🙂 Japan is such a great country!! Everything is so clean and it is an easy country to travel around in as their train system is excellent. I`m sure you will love Japan too!! So much to see, do and eat!

      Reply
  12. Amazing pictures.
    I love Japan, and plan on going again next year from my base in South Korea.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot Steven!! 🙂 We love Japan too!! Lucky you who live so close to Japan that you can go there easily! Have a great trip next year!

      Reply
  13. I’d go back to Tokyo only to see this stunning bamboo forest, I can’t believe we missed it! It’s a shame it’s so popular (even if I fully understand why) but I wouldn’t care about the crowd in these case, it’s too nice.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I think that`s the best way to handle the crowds Franca, just pretend they are not there and enjoy the walk through the forest even though you are not alone. This forest is in Kyoto, not Tokyo, and it is amazing! You should definitely visit it on your next trip to Japan!

      Reply
  14. Oh, the forest looks magical indeed!

    I particularly like pictures of girls in colorful kimono. This whole combination of lush green and vivid patterns looks amazing!

    Reply
    • Walking around in this forest really felt like a magic moment! Ah, I love kimonos too Elena! So when these two kimono dressed girls showed up we just had to “stalk” them and take a few shots. 🙂 They were beautiful!!!

      Reply
  15. Looks like a lovely place to explore and you’ve got some really great shots here. Love the sound (pun intended) of the “100 Soundscapes of Japan” Great idea.

    Reply
    • Thanks a million Kathryn!! The rustling sound of bamboo swinging in the wind is very peaceful and is one of the highlights of a walk through the forest. We loved this forest!

      Reply
  16. Hi Maria,
    Great pictures and blog! Since the bamboo forest is open 24/7, I was wondering whether it was lit up at night every day, along with the Togetsukyo bridge? I will go when it is not Hanatouro light festival.

    Thank you

    Best regards,
    Cindy

    Reply
    • Hi Cindy,

      Thank you so much! Happy that you like it! 🙂

      Yes, the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto is lit up every evening and night, at least the parts that are surrounding the walking paths.

      Have a great trip to the Bamboo Forest!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  17. Wondering if you visited the Ryoanji Temple and Rock Garden? Perhaps not as popular or as much of a highlight as the Bamboo Forest?

    Reply
    • Hi Belinda,

      No, we have not visited the Ryoanji Temple and its Rock Garden yet. It looks beautiful and peaceful, though, and probably has fewer tourists crowds as it is not as famous as the Bamboo Forest. 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  18. If I go to this place in the early morning , will be ok or not? I think that may be dark because spring in now in Japan .I want to visit only one day full of Kyoto famous place.

    Reply
    • Hi Mya,

      Yes, it is absolutely best to head to the Bamboo Forest in the early morning. Then you will have the forest almost to yourself. The sunrise is around 05:30 am in the morning in Kyoto now (April), so it will not be dark if you go there around 6.

      Have a great trip to Kyoto and enjoy the Bamboo Forest!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  19. Thanks for sharing Maria!

    Beautiful photos. We are going to Kyoto in a few days!

    I am in a bit of a pickle, as we are staying a traditional Ryokan in Kyoto and breakfast is served (at the earliest) 7:00 AM, so this means we would not be able to get to the forest until 9 AM at the very earliest. Do you think it will be very crowded at this point and better to wait until later in the day (the sun sets at 5 PM in the winter)?

    Reply
    • Hi Amanda,

      Thank you so much!

      Hmm, I’m afraid that the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto will be pretty crowded all day, from early morning until late afternoon. We first visited the Bamboo Forest in July 2014 (all photos in this article are from that trip) and revisited it now in December 2019. Its popularity has exploded, the forest was packed on our latest visit compared to 2014.

      We visited the forest in the afternoon, before sunset around 4 PM (December), thinking it would be fewer people, but this was not the case. After sunset, however, when it got dark, there were fewer people.

      I think that if you really want to beat the crowds and get photos with no people in it, you probably have to be there around sunrise. Maybe you could go there before breakfast and then head back to your Ryokan in time for breakfast around 9/10 am? And if you can, do visit the forest on a weekday as it is even more crowded on weekends.

      Have a fantastic time in Kyoto!

      -Maria-

      Reply

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