The Arashiyama bamboo grove is known for its rich bamboo stalks located in the Arashiyama mountains (Storm Mountains). A popular tourist destination, this place of scenic beauty offers a unique window into Kyoto’s historic heart. Arashiyama is located just a train ride away from the Kyoto Station, journey covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
How to get to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The fastest and easiest way to get to Arashiyama is by train. Take the JR Train from Kyoto Station on the JR Sagano/San-in Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. From there, walk for 10 minutes and follow the signs to Arashiyama bamboo grove.
Accommodation we recommend in Kyoto
Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto
Kyoto Yoko and Akira Guesthouse
Why visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Being surrounded by a vast amount of bamboo, makes you feel as if you stepped into another world. The world of Arashiyama is green and peaceful. A local told me that it's best to visit the bamboo grooves when the weather is a little windy because the tall bamboo stalks look very dreamy and mesmerising when they gently rock back and forth.
Although this Kyoto top spot is mainly associated with the Arashiyama bamboo forest, there are many other things to do in this district. Once you leave the tourist sites behind, you can walk through quiet neighbourhoods and secluded residential streets. If you continue up towards the mountain, you will discover wonderful remote temples, far away from the crowds.
What to do in Arashiyama
This 14th century temple is one of the main attractions in Arashiyama. It features a magnificent Zen garden and a cute little tea house.
This beautiful park has many different trails where you can enjoy a peaceful and quiet afternoon. Sometimes you can spot Snow Monkeys here too, which makes Kameyama-koen Park a popular attraction for wild photography enthusiasts. One of the trails will take your right into the Arahiyama mountains where you will find a beautiful lookout spot.
Okochi-Sanso Villa is home to a beautiful garden with magnificent views over Kyoto. It was originally the residence of the film actor Denjirō Ōkōchi and was used for several movie sets. Matcha tea and a tasty snack are included in the price of the entry ticket.
This temple is famous because of its maple trees. During the maple season, it becomes very popular and rather crowded. Best to visit during December, when there is a lower number of tourists around.
Follow the steps up to a secluded bamboo forest. During my visit, in December, the garden looked astonishing and was free from any tourists.
If you too enjoy the beauty of a moss garden, then Gio-ji Temple is the place for you. It's quite a walk away from the Arashiyama bamboo groves, so make sure you have plenty of water and snacks with you for this journey.
This lovely temple is well off the beaten track. It features 8000 Buddhist statues and a small bamboo grove at the back. Because it's quite far, not many people come here, which makes it into a perfect spot if you like to be away from the crowds.
If you are willing to walk for quite some time, away from the Arashiyama bamboo groves, then you will be rewarded with the most beautiful Arashiyama temple I've had the pleasure of discovering. From all the temples I have visited so far, this was my very favourite.
Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji is a secluded Buddhist temple, home to over 1200 rakan covered in moss. A rakan is a stone statue representing the disciples of Buddha. All rakan statues in the Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji have been donated and a majority have been sculpted by amateurs. When I finally got to Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji, it started raining, but instead of running back towards the train station, I sat down under the temple's roof and admired the drops falling down on the ground. It was a true zen experience.
When to visit Arashiyama
The Arashiyama bamboo grove is very popular amongst tourists, hence it’s pretty much always crowded. If you wish to capture those perfect pictures, best to visit first thing in the morning, before sunrise. I strongly recommend going off the beaten track and exploring the trails which take you into the mountains. Alternatively, follow the paths towards Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji . On your way, you will have a chance to see and photograph traditional Japanese houses, independent shops and tiny eateries, far from the madding crowds.
Visit Arashiyama at night
During December, I recommend visiting the Arashiyama bamboo grove at night because the paths get illuminated and the Arashiyama bamboo forest looks magical and dreamy. This festival of lights is called Arashiyama Hanatouro illuminations and it only takes place in December for about 10 days, between 5 pm and 8:30 pm.
Few visit the Arashiyama bamboo forest at night, after 9 pm, because the path gets too dark for the groves to be seen, and there is not enough light for photography.
I visited Arashiyama in December and I enjoyed seeing the bamboo groves during daylight as well as in the dark, although I much preferred seeing the groves illuminated at night time.
The best souvenir at Arashiyama
Buy a Japanese fan - On my way to Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji, I came across this little shop owned by an old Japanese lady who smiled a lot. I love helping small, independent businesses, especially when they are located out of the tourist areas. I strongly recommend checking this place out. It's a very cool shop with much cheaper prices than anywhere else in Kyoto.
The Arashiyama bamboo grove was a surreal and wonderful experience. If I'm perfectly honest, Arashiyama's beauty lies far beyond its famous bamboo forest, within the most secluded spots, into the heart of the Storm Mountains.
Accommodation we recommend in Kyoto
Yumoto Onsen OharaSansou
Hotel Granvia Kyoto
Would you like to visit Arashiyama at night or would you prefer photographing the bamboo groves during day time? Let me know in the comments section below.