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 last for a couple of minutes before the area is yet again packed with noisy posing tourists snapping selfies.
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……
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.
And yep, it is also on the cover of the Lonely Planet Japan book! 🙂
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:
So the days where you could have the forest for yourself are long gone! The crowds are worst in 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
You can rent a bicycle and go around the area, take a Hozu River Boat Tour and take the Saga Scenic Railway – a 25-minute steam train ride (7 km) through scenic landscape along the Hozu River.
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 and Kinkaku-ji Temple, it is one of the most famous sights in the Kyoto and for a good reason.
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!
How To Get There?
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 It Cost?
Entering the Bamboo Grove Kyoto is free. There are several temples in the area, which have enter fees.
Tenryu-ji Temple: 500 JPY = 5 us$ per person
When Is It 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
1. We stayed at Century Hotel Kyoto
We highly recommend this hotel, as it was awesome!! The best hotel we stayed at throughout our Japan trip! Big beautiful rooms, huge comfortable bed, great service from the staff and excellent location just next to Kyoto Train Station (100 m). You will love this hotel!
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Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo
We stayed at Hotel Mystays in Tokyo and loved it! 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 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 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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We used the Lonely Planet`s Japan travel guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below:
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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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