Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Name: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Not to Be Confused With: “Bamboo Forest” or “Bamboo Park”, which is an entirely different place in Kyoto
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Address: Ukyo Ward, Arashiyama, Kyoto, 616-0007, Japan
Hours: 24 Hours
Not to be confused with the less impressive and slightly eerie “Bamboo Forest,” about an hour’s walk away near an elementary school that we absolutely didn’t accidentally go to at first, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a magnificent sight to behold. You may have seen this bamboo forest all over Instagram, and believe me, there were quite literally hundreds and hundreds of people walking through this narrow passageway, clamoring to get the perfect photograph for Instagram. I can’t tell you how long I’ve dreamed of visiting this beautiful place, and I really regret that we didn’t get there much earlier because it was so crowded we could barely walk, let alone get good shots. If I ever return to Kyoto, this will be one of the first places I return to, because it was truly beautiful.
Read on for my advice on what we would have done differently when visiting, and to learn more about what else is in the area, like a breathtaking river, gorgeous temples, beautiful Buddhist vegetarian restaurants, imperial gardens, and so much more.
When to Arrive
We arrived go the park after accidentally going to the wrong place around 9 am, and it was already absolutely packed. There were people lying on the ground posing for photos, large groups blocking the entire walkway, and generally being obnoxious. Not only could we not get any photographs of the entire forest walkway without lots of people in the way, we also had a tough time getting through the pathway to simply walk through the forest.
To avoid the massive crowds, head to the park either after dark, which is open 24 hours a day, or get there earlier than anyone else, around 5 am, and watch the sunrise. That’s what locals we spoke with recommended we do when we asked for advice after the fact. If it hadn’t been our last day in Kyoto when we tried to visit, we would have come back. The forest really is stunning, and even with the throngs of people, there was something so tranquil and mesmerizing about being surrounded by such dense bamboo.
What to Do Near Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Kyoto Kimono Forest
Located: Randen Arashiyama Train Station
This is more of a path than a forest, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Made from hundreds of real kimonos, the Kimono Forest showcases the changes in kimono styles throughout the years and seasons. Many of the kimono on display were inspired by former geisha and meiko, as well as ordinary citizens of Kyoto.
Located: Near the Bamboo Grove & Tenryuji Temple
This gorgeous shrine is a beautiful example of Japan’s Shinto belief system. Built into its surroundings, this temple is truly one with nature. This shrine’s original purpose was to purify shrine maidens and shrine priestesses before they were stationed at Ice Shrine. This shrine is mentioned in the famous story The Tale of Genji.
Tenryuji Temple & Gardens
Address: 68 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385, Japan
A registered World Heritage Site, Tenryuji Temple and its surrounding gardens is nearly 700 years old, and is one of the headquarters of a school of Zen Buddhism, where new priests and priestesses are trained. It is surrounded by breathtaking rock gardens, koi ponds, and a beautiful garden that was bursting with spring colors when we visited in April. It’s a gorgeous place to learn about Japan’s history, photograph or paint botanicals, and take a walk. Admission to the garden is ¥500, and for another ¥100, you may enter and explore the temple. For another ¥500, visitors can enter the Dharma Hall, which is home to a famous Cloud Dragon Painting that is nearly 1,000 years old.
To get to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove or any of the above historical and cultural sites, you will likely pass over the Togetsukyo Bridge. This 509-foot-long bridge is something that should absolutely be crossed on foot so that visitors may experience the breathtaking views and changing perspectives of the surrounding rivers and mountains while crossing. In the spring and summer, you can see fishermen wading in the river casting their nets as their ancestors have for hundreds of years.
The city surrounding the bamboo grove is a splendid place to explore Japanese culture, try local specialties like the neighborhood take on Udon and Matcha desserts, rent a kimono for the day, or find unique souvenirs. Budget a few extra hours to wander the city and explore what it has to offer after visiting the rest of the sights on the outskirts of Kyoto.
Other Helpful Tips
I’m sure my readers don’t need to be reminded of this, but it may be worth reiterating that whenever we travel, we must keep in mind at all times that we are guests in someone else’s home, so to speak. While we were in the Bamboo Grove, we saw people completely blocking the narrow path, using bright camera flashes that disrupted everyone around them, and there were lots of children running around, bumping into people, and screaming. Of course, this is something we could have avoided if we hadn’t gotten lost on the way up and had arrived when we’d hoped to, but it was still very disappointing to say the least. This area is a special place for not only Japanese citizens, but travelers from around the world, so please remember to always be respectful when visiting new places.
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