I visit the famed Bamboo groves of Arashiyama, to experience the magic of the sacred grove
I’m in Arashiyama near Kyoto, walking through the famed bamboo groves. The region is famous for its awe inspiring bamboo groves and has featured in many a selfie. I decided to experience this first hand and set off in the early morning from Kyoto.
Buddhist temples in japan are often found near bamboo groves, and the bamboo groves of Sagano are no exception. Situated at one end of the 14th Century Tenryu-ji temple, the bamboo groves continue till the Okochi-Sanso Villa, the former home of late silent film star Denjiro Okochi. The Tenryu-ji temple, built by an ancient Shogun, is a marvel in itself with its magnificent gardens and serene environs. I began my journey into the bamboo groves from this starting point.
A few steps into the bamboo forest and the bright morning light started taking an ethereal otherworldly quality, diffusing through the tall stalks of bamboo on both sides of the path. The path itself was remarkably simple made of natural stone and lined with a railing of dried bamboo. On both sides, green bamboo stalks rose up into the sky cutting off direct light and giving the air a greenish glow.
The forest was silent with only the breeze rustling through the towering stalks as I walked on the path. While the grove was not as large as I imagined, just standing there and looking up at the bamboo on both sides was like stepping onto another planet. While this was not the first time I had encountered a bamboo forest, something about the timeless nature of this grove made it standout.
Tourists were beginning to stream in gradually and once in awhile the steady stream of people would stop, leaving me standing alone in the forest, admiring the serenity. I stopped in several spots to click some pictures of the place, but after seeing the in camera results, it was clear that a mere photo would never do justice to the place.
On the way back, the walk was not so serene, as throngs of selfie clicking tourists descended on the pathway. I did manage a few stunning pictures of the bamboo forest, but after looking at them I realized that no picture could really capture the essence of that magnificent green magical forest.
Arashiyama is fairly close to Kyoto. The fastest way to get to Arashiyama is through the JR Sanin Line. The trip to the Saga-Arashiyama Station takes about 15 minutes (¥ 240). From the station, you can reach the bamboo groves in central Arashiyama by a 10 minute walk. Bicycles are available for rent at the station from about 9:00 am onwards. You can also get there by Kyoto City Bus #28 and Kyoto Bus #71, #72 and #73 from Kyoto station.
What to do
The bamboo forest is open all day and are free to enter. For the best experience, head out early in the morning or late evening and avoid weekends completely. You can also visit the nearby Tenryu-ji Temple (open 8:30 to 17:30, ¥ 500 entry) or head over to the Monkey park of Arashiyama.