Guide to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Kyoto

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is located on the west of Kyoto, and it’s known for its tall bamboo stalks that reach up to the sky, forming a tunnel-like pathway for visitors to stroll through. As you walk through the path, you can hear the wind swaying the stalks and rustlingly the leaves above. Even on the sunniest of days, the bamboo forest filters much of the bright light, casting the surroundings in a softer, more ethereal glow, making it feel like you entered another world.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of the most popular places to visit not just in Kyoto but in the whole of Japan. In this guide, I will tell you how to experience the bamboo forest in one day to ensure you make the most out of your visit. I included my preferred walking route to ensure you get to see all the nearby attractions too and avoid most of the crowds for the day.

People walking in Arashiyama bamboo forest Kyoto, Japan ©Cory Varga
People walking in Arashiyama bamboo forest Kyoto, Japan

How to get to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

From Kyoto Station

By Train: Take the JR Sagano/San-in Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. The journey takes about 15 minutes. From Saga-Arashiyama Station, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the bamboo grove. The JR Pass covers this trip.

By Bus: You can also take Kyoto City Bus number 28 from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama Tenryu-ji Mae, which is close to the bamboo forest. The ride takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic. This trip is covered by the Kansai Thru Pass.

From Central Kyoto

By Randen Tram: If you’re closer to the Shijo-Omiya area in central Kyoto, take the Keifuku Randen Tram Line to Arashiyama. The terminal station is Arashiyama, and the bamboo grove is about a 10-minute walk from there. The tram journey is a slightly more nostalgic ride. The Kansai Thru Pass covers this trip.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest at night, illuminated during the December Hanatouro festival ©Cory Varga
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest at night, illuminated during the December Hanatouro festival

When to visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The best time to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is first thing in the morning to avoid the most tourist crowds.

Since it’s one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto, it’s almost always crowded with tourists, but in the morning, you will get some respite. We arrived there just before 9am and got some moments when we could take some pictures without other people in the frame.

Just note that most shops do open at around 9am, so if you are after street food and snacks, then plan your arrival accordingly.

Beautiful lights in Kyoto at Arashiyama bamboo forest in December after the sunset ©Cory Varga
Beautiful lights in Kyoto at Arashiyama bamboo forest in December after the sunset

Visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 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.

Only a few people visit the Arashiyama bamboo grove 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.

Walking through the Arashiyama bamboo forest
Walking through the Arashiyama bamboo forest

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Walking Route

There is a lot more to the bamboo forest than just the path of swaying bamboo stalks. There are beautiful temples, stunning gardens, traditional restaurants and even a really well-preserved street. To ensure you make the most out of your day at Arashiyama bamboo forest, I put together an easy-to-follow walking itinerary.

I’ve tried and tested this walking route in November, on a fairly warm and sunny day. Comfortable shoes are needed, and I will tell you my favourite places for food and snacks.

Arashiyama bamboo forest walking route
Arashiyama bamboo forest walking route

You can use my interactive Google maps for this walking route.

Tenryu-ji Temple

Entrance Fee: 500yen (+300 yen for entering the main building)
Opening Hours: 8:30 to 17:00

Tenryu-ji Temple is a 14th century temple is one of the main attractions in Arashiyama. It features a magnificent Zen garden (called Sōgenchi Teien) and a traditional tea house. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”.

The temple features a pond garden, designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty in Japan.

Cory from You Could Travel visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Cory from You Could Travel visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Entrance Fee: Free
Opening Hours: 24/7

Next, walk through the bamboo path, which is essentially a well-defined path lined with tall and thick bamboo stalks. The bamboo forest does look special because the stalks create a natural cathedral that towers overhead. Being so tall, the leaves at the end of the stalks filter the light, casting the path in a soft, ethereal glow. If you visit in the morning, stop for a moment to listen to the way the wind sounds when it gently sways the bamboos. It’s a charming place, no wonder it attracts visitors from all over the world.

Ōkōchi Sansō in Arashiyama, Kyoto in November
Ōkōchi Sansō in Arashiyama, Kyoto in November

Okochi-Sanso Villa

Entrance Fee: 1000 yen
Opening Hours: 9 am–5 pm

Okochi-Sanso Villa is the original residence of the film actor Denjirō Ōkōchi and was used for several movie sets. The main attraction is its incredible garden, which has a well-defined path that takes you around the main attractions. Plus, there are areas with stunning views of the forested Arashiyama mountains and nearby residential rooftops.

The entry ticket might feel a little steep, but included in the price you get a freshly made bowl of matcha tea and a small wagashi.

The small bamboo groove at Jōjakkōji Temple
The small bamboo grove at Jōjakkōji Temple

Jōjakkōji Temple

Entrance Fee: 500 yen
Opening Hours: 9 am–5 pm

Jōjakkōji Temple dates back to 1596 and is located on the slopes of Mount Ogura, offering some seriously beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

The temple features a charming pagoda, lush moss gardens, and lots of maple trees that turn vivid shades of red and orange in the autumn. You will need to climb some stone steps to be rewarded with the views, but it’s well worth your effort. Don’t tell anyone I told you, but this temple has a small bamboo grove.

Cory visiting the Gio-ji temple with its beautiful bamboo forest
Cory visiting the Gio-ji temple with its beautiful bamboo forest

Gio-ji Temple

Entrance Fee: 300 yen
Opening Hours: 9 am–4:30 pm

Gio-ji Temple is a smaller and less known temple in Arashiyama. It’s worth a visit for its lovely moss garden, but this temple, too, has a small bamboo grove.

The temple is named after Gio, a dancer from the Heian period who became a nun after a series of unfortunate events in love. Gio-ji Temple became her residence.

Gio-ji is a much smaller temple than the previous ones, but honestly, it’s so calm and beautiful.

Saga Toriimoto preserved street in Arashiyama Kyoto Japan
Saga Toriimoto preserved street in Arashiyama Kyoto Japan

Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street

Entrance Fee: Free
Opening Hours: 9 am–5:00 pm (shops)

Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street is a narrow alleyway which has kept its old-world charm from the late Edo Period. It is lined with traditional wooden houses known as machiya, now transformed into small shops.

Every time we’ve come to Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street throughout the years, we had the whole street to ourselves, with barely a few other people around. It’s a great place to escape the thick crowds from the bamboo grove. There are a few souvenir shops located on this street, including Adashino Mayumura, which specialises in creating small dolls out of silk cocoons.

Lunch at Ayu-no-Yado Tsutaya, Kyoto Japan
Lunch at Ayu-no-Yado Tsutaya, Kyoto Japan

Lunch at Ayu-no-Yado Tsutaya

Opening Hours: 11:30 am–6:30 pm

Ayu-no-Yado Tsutaya is a kaiseki restaurant which serves set menus for lunch in a spacious room with tatami floors. There are normal tables with chairs on the tatami so you can sit comfortably and admire the garden through the large glass windows.

When I visited, they had two types of set menus for lunch only. We ordered the ayudon which is a sweet fish cooked over a bowl of rice, served with a side of miso soup and pickles. As simple as the food looked, it was so incredibly tasty and full of flavour. Note that they only took cash.

Adashino-Nembutsu-ji Temple with its bamboo path
Adashino-Nembutsu-ji Temple with its bamboo path

Adashino-Nembutsu-ji Temple

Entrance Fee: 500 yen
Opening Hours: 9 am–3:30 pm

Adashino-Nembutsu-ji Temple was founded in the early 9th century by the monk Kūkai, and it’s known for its 8,000 Buddhist stone statues representing the souls of the deceased. These statues have been collected from all over Kyoto and placed here over the centuries. Every year on August 23rd and 24th, the temple hosts the Sento Kuyo ceremony, where thousands of candles are lit to honor the spirits of the departed.

Adashino Nenbutsu-ji sits among tall bamboo stalks and has a lovely path with stairs that go through the bamboo, much like the famous bamboo forest in Arashiyama, but it’s quieter without all the crowds.

Otagi Nenbutsu ji temple in Arashiyama Kyoto Japan
Otagi Nenbutsu ji temple in Arashiyama Kyoto Japan

Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

Entrance Fee: 400 yen
Opening Hours: 8 am–4:30 pm

Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji is an 8th century temple, very much off the beaten in Arashiyama, but in my opinion, one of the most striking temples. 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. It’s a fairly small temple but really beautiful and truly zen. Given that it’s a good 30-minute walk from the main Arashiyama bamboo forest, you can imagine that there are seldom any tourists here.

Randen Arashiyama station
Randen Arashiyama station

Back to the train station

Simply retrace your steps back to the train station. The trip will take about 40 minutes walk.

Alternatively, you can catch bus 62, 72, 92, or 94 from Otagidera Mae station, located right in front of Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji Temple, to the train station. The bus ride takes about 6 minutes, followed by a 7-minute walk to the train station.

When To Photograph The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Personally, I think the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is an incredibly picturesque spot perfect for photography enthusiasts. But it’s equally challenging because the bamboo grove gets some of the thickest crowds. You need to time your arrival to avoid the busiest times, so mornings are best. I’m talking about the sunrise. You want to be there at first light when the paths are quiet (with a few other photography enthusiasts).

With almost nobody around, you’ve got all the time you need to nail that perfect shot, playing around with angles and camera settings. Just after sunrise, the path lights up with a lovely, soft glow.

The bamboo forest in Arashiyama is open all hours. Given the height of the bamboo and the limited light filtering through, mastering low-light photography is a must. In my experience, you will want a wider lens for this. I tried photographing with my Fujifilm 35mm, but I changed it to a 23mm and yielded much better results.

Night visits to the bamboo grove are doable, but it gets really dark, so you’ll need to use artificial lighting or a flash. Make sure to bring some powerful flashlights for ease. In winter, there’s a chance to capture the grove after dark during the Arashiyama Hanatouro illuminations, which brighten up the paths from 5 pm to 8:30 pm. I recommend getting there around 8 pm to avoid the crowds.

Views of the Storm mountains in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Views of the Storm mountains in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan

Tips for Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Arrive early – I cannot express how much nicer it is to walk around the bamboo forest without having to elbow your way through. It is a magical place to visit, but also one of the top things to do in Japan. It’s natural to expect crowds, but recently, the path has got very, very busy.

Wear comfortable shoes – To make the most out of your day in Arashiyama, you should explore the surroundings as the area is full of gardens, temples and smaller bamboo groves. Comfortable, sturdy footwear will make your visit much more enjoyable.

Respect the environment – The bamboo grove is a natural and cultural treasure. Stick to the paths, don’t leave trash behind, and avoid making loud noises. Do not touch the bamboo stalks or make any carvings in them.

Stay Nearby – To truly capture the essence of Arashiyama and visit the bamboo grove at the least crowded times, consider staying in one of the many guesthouses or hotels in the area. This allows you to beat the day-trippers to the grove and enjoy Arashiyama at a more leisurely pace.

Sage GuestHouse
Mid-range Hotel 9.5

This is a new hotel located right in the heart of Arashiyama. IT is a holiday home just about 500 m away from the Bamboo Street. You can get free bikes and can enjoy free wifi in the property. Prices start at £141 per night.

Click here for prices and book Sage GuestHouse

Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto
Mid-range Hotel 8.7

Suiran is luxurious hotel located next to Katsura River. It has a beautiful Japanese Garden and each room has a beautiful bathroom with bath and free toiletries. Guests can relax at the spa, purchase souvenirs at the gift shop, or soak in the private open-air bath with an advance reservation. Room service, 24-hour front desk and a concierge service are also available on site.

Click here for prices and book Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto

Final Thoughts

The Arashiyama bamboo grove was a surreal and wonderful experience. Let’s face it, it’s on everyone’s itinerary because it really is a natural wonder like no other in the world.

If I’m perfectly honest, Arashiyama’s beauty lies far beyond its famous bamboo grove, within the most secluded spots and lesser known temples, into the heart of the Storm Mountains. Visit the grove in the morning, and continue the day by following my walking itinerary around Arashiyama to see all the highlights and eat traditional food. You’re going to love it!

Share this post
Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.

Comments

25 responses to “Guide to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Kyoto”

  1. Andrea Jones Avatar
    Andrea Jones

    Love this. I can’t wait to visit Japan, it’s number 1 on my travel bucket list.

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Andrea, I am sure you will love your trip to Japan. Let me know how it goes.

  2. Krista - Krista's Compass Avatar
    Krista – Krista’s Compass

    I have always wanted to go to a temple, they look amazing! I can’t wait to visit here one day, you’ve definitely got me convinced 🙂

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      I can’t wait to read about your adventures

  3. Amelia Avatar
    Amelia

    Hi, i go to kyoto end of april . If i go to bamboo groove on evening after 5 PM, is still good for fotograph or it will be dark ? Thanks

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Amelia, unfortunately, the light festival is held during December only. You will find other surprises in Arashyiama in April, such as the beautiful cherry season festival, warm weather and great street food dotted all along the place. Have lots of fun.

  4. Sai Kiran Avatar
    Sai Kiran

    That’s really a great information. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Glad you find it useful. Wishing you a great time in Japan

  5. Ahmy Avatar
    Ahmy

    Thanks for the review, I plan to visit arashiyama on october, do you think I need one day trip for it, or half day is enough ?
    what I plan to check are Bamboo Groves – Togetsukyo Bridge – Monkey Park Iwatayama – Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple – Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple – and maybe Osawa pond

    As i am not sure if all this will need the whole day my plan for this day is waiting for an advice, if half day is enough then any advice for where to go after Arashiyama

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Ahmy,

      If I am perfectly honest, I would say a whole day, just so you can enjoy the places at a slower pace, take pictures, take it all in. There is quite a walk from the bamboo forest to the Otagi Nenbutsuji (great choice btw, my fav temple) and back. I would pack some water and snacks just to be safe. If you would start the day at around 10 AM, I can imagine that you could potentially finish maybe at 4 PM or so? That’s including stopping for lunch, enjoying the places etc. Perhaps stop at the Kyoto train station and have dinner there, and a wonder for the evening if you are not too tired. Plenty to see and do, without having to also take the train or subway to yet another place.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have more questions.

      Kind Regards,

  6. Nat Avatar
    Nat

    Nice iternary planned! Gave me some ideas as I heading the Kyoto next week. Is it possible to fit this places in one day?
    From Saga-Arashiyama Station > Tenryuji Temple > Bamboo Groves > Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street > Togetsukyo Bridge and straight to Fushimi Inari Shrine > Nishiki Market ? Would like to seek your expertise. Thanks so much!

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Nat, thank you for your message. I would advise against it. I think Arashiyama area and the Fushimi Inari should be explored on different days.
      This is mainly because the areas are quite far apart. Arashiyama will probably take half a day, Fushimi Inari would take another half a day. But you would get to Fushimi a little too late to enjoy it during sunset, so you would probably hike in the dark.
      I would do them on two separate days. During the Arashiyama visit, I would make my way to the Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji as well. This journey will probably cover the whole day, especially if you stop to eat, take pictures and really enjoy your time.
      For Fushimi Inari, we started walking from Central Kyoto to Fushimi and stopped to several temples along the way. This enabled us to time our hike for the sunset!

      I hope this helps. Have lots of fun!

      Kind Regards,

      Cory

  7. Dave Avatar
    Dave

    Very informative! My wife and I will visit Kyoto in the end of September and plan to spend one day in Arashiyama. How early should we get to the Bamboo forest in order to avoid the crowd? We will stay in Gion area. Thanks!

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Dave,
      Thank you for your kind words. I would say before 9 am if possible. We arrived at around 10-11 and there were lots of people around already. So the earlier, the better. You can even arrive for the sunrise if you wish, by taking the first trains. However, please note that the rest of the shrines and temples usually open after 9am so you might have to hang around a little. If you arrive during peak times, with a lot of patience, you will eventually be able to get a cool photo without people in it. 🙂

      I hope this helps. Wishing you a wonderful stay in Kyoto. You will love Japan!

      Kind Regards,

      Cory

  8. Carol Avatar
    Carol

    Hi Cory
    Chance upon your blog. We are planning to go Arashiyama in the night as we are there in December. Will it be crowded and it is too dark to walk around? We intend to be there around 5pm as we will arrive Kyoto 2pm-3pm.
    We are staying near Kyoto station.
    Btw, our first time to Japan.

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Carol,

      Thank you for your message. It will be dark at 5 pm as the lights for the bamboo forest just come up at exactly 5 pm. It will be crowded as well, as 5 pm is literally what everyone is waiting for so they can enjoy a walk in the enchanted looking forest. It does look wonderful with the lights, but if you wish to enjoy a walk around the temples, you will have to arrive early morning or during lunchtime, when the temples and shrines are still open. Usually, most of them close between 4-5 pm.

      Any other questions, let me know 🙂
      I hope you will enjoy your stay in Japan.

  9. Maria Avatar
    Maria

    Hi, what’s the weather like during mid-Feb? I’m solo travelling to Kyoto and Osaka and haven’t finalized my itinerary and stuff to pack. Is it better to just stay in Osaka and take the trains, or stay separately in Osaka and Kyoto? Thanks!

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Maria,

      You are going to LOVE Japan, it’s perfect for a solo travel experience as well. To fully immerse, I’d say it’s best to stay in both cities and experience them on their own.
      The trains are fast, clean and reliable so taking the train daily is also an option, but accommodation across both cities costs about the same, so I vote for staying a few nights in Osaka and a few in Kyoto.

      Have lots and lots of fun.

      Kind Regards,

      Cory

  10. Jona Mercado Avatar
    Jona Mercado

    We are thinking of visiting bamboo Groves from Disneyland Station before heading to our hotel in Kyoto. Do you think that’s a good idea? I have 2 kids (5&6yo) and 3 adults (2 are like more than 60). We are just optimising our time and maximising our JR pass. Please help me

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Jona,

      I would say that you should leave the luggage somewhere as the paths can get really busy so it won’t make sense to struggle with the suitcase.
      If you can leave the suitcase in a secure place at the train station, I think it’s absolutely fine to do it before the hotel. Just be mindful that you will need 2-3 hours to see some of the shrines around and they all close at around 5 pm.

  11. khai Avatar
    khai

    hi im kai,
    can i know that can i rent a bike and cycling in the bamboo grove? if you know the place to rent, can you suggest where it is? Thanks

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Khai thank you for your comment. We didn’t see anyone on bikes in the Arashiyama Bamboo grove area. However, once you are out of the forest itself, you can def cycle. We didn’t see any rentals around but I think your hotel will be able to help you with a rental on the day.

  12. Emilia Avatar
    Emilia

    Absolutely enjoyed reading this! thank u :DDDD

  13. Chloe Yau Avatar
    Chloe Yau

    Hi Cory!

    I will be visiting Arashiyama Bamboo Groves in February during winter. What is the best time during the day to visit? Early morning or evening? We are 3 people – My partner and I as well as our 2YO toddler.

    It is our first time to Kyoto. Appreciate your advise.

    1. Cory Avatar
      Cory

      Hi Chloe, I would advise that you visit in the morning before 11am. Spend the time enjoying the forest, the shops, other temples before it gets dark!
      Enjoy your time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *