When I visited Kyoto, I was looking forward to exploring all the truly out of this world temples that it had to offer, but ultimately, visiting Arashiyama Bamboo Grove was by far the unbeatable highlight of my time in Kyoto.
I remember first discovering the existence of this bamboo forest several years ago in a Buzzfeed post, and ever since then it had been an ever-present feature on the seemingly never-ending list of places that I want to see before I croak. So when I finally made it to Japan, I was most definitely going to be finding this glorious forest!
As it turned out, much like everywhere else in Japan, getting to Arashiyama was surprisingly easy.
From Kyoto Station, catch the JR San-In line bound for Sonobe and get off at Saga-Arashiyama Station. If you are using a JR Pass (something I highly recommend) then this trip will not cost you a single extra cent.
From Saga-Arashiyama Station it is a 1.9km (around 1.2 miles for my readers who aren’t on the metric system) walk to the entrance to the bamboo forest. This walk is not particularly well signed (at least not in English) but it is still fairly simple to work out where you need to go. When in doubt, the google maps recorded location of the forest is pretty spot on.
Along the way you will be treated to some lovely views of local Japanese houses – some of which are really cute.
After going straight down this quiet street for 800 metres or so, you will come across a slightly busier looking street and in particular, a little ice cream and snack stand. Next to this stand is another little road, and from there you pretty much just have to follow the road and you will find the forest with ease, even if you are like me and have truly horrible navigational skills.
As you follow this smaller street, you will pass numerous temples which will more than likely be closed. However, despite being unable to enter said temples, you can certainly still enjoy them from the outside.
Before too long, you will start to find that the area becomes more and more ‘forest-y’ and less and less urban. This is another good sign that you are headed in the right direction.
The fences will then start to disappear and your first views of the bamboo will be absolutely gorgeous, but rest assured in that the best is still just around the corner…
I mean seriously, how fricking gorgeous is this place?!
I really do love this next shot. Without having a person in frame (in this shot it is myself) the grandeur and sheer size of the bamboo would definitely be less obvious.
I must admit, I had been mildly worried that Arashiyama would be one of those places that looks absolutely spectacular in pictures only to be a letdown when seen in real life, but that was definitely not the case. It was every bit as beautiful as I had imagined it to be, possibly even more so.
The forest isn’t overly massive, and the two most beautiful pathways are connected to each other. However, despite the place not being enormous, its beauty kept me pretty mesmerised for well over an hour. Honestly, it probably would have kept me entertained even longer, but a group of Japanese school kids showed up and the zen vibes the place had been giving off kinda disappeared.
If you are planning to visit Arashiyama, I have two pieces of advice that you would be wise to pay attention to.
Firstly, either wear long pants or bring mosquito repellent.
Secondly, if you want to see the forest at its most peaceful, go as early in the morning as you possibly can. My mate Kaisha and I had a pretty damn early start and other than seeing one or two other duos, we pretty much had the place to ourselves…
At least until the Japanese school kids rocked up at around 9am.
There are no entrance fees to enter the forest, so if you make the trip using your JR Pass, visiting this totally bucket-list worthy place will not cost you a thing. This is especially appealing when you are a budget backpacker who has already blown too many Yen on sushi!
Once we left the confines of the forest and emerged out under the harsh Japanese sun, both Kaisha and myself were seriously craving something to eat and something to cool us down. The little snack booth that we had seen on the way to the forest was now open, and they were serving some seriously delicious mango juice – the perfect thing for a hot and humid day.
Mango juice just wasn’t enough though. Ice cream was also a requirement – because ice cream is pretty much always a requirement. By the time my chocolate gelato was settling nicely in my tummy we had arrived back at the Saga-Arashiyama Station and began the onwards journey to our next destination for the day – Kinkaku-Ji – also known as the Golden Pavillion. As always, stay tuned!
T H E L O W D O W N
Getting to Kyoto: Though Kansai airport is the closest airport to Kyoto, it is often cheaper to fly into Shin-Osaka airport and catch a short 30 minute train to Kyoto
Getting to Arashiyama: From Kyoto Station, catch the San-In line towards Sonobe and get off at Saga-Arashiyama station, then walk for approx 1.9km
Arashiyama: Entrance to the forest is free and open 24/7, but pay attention to the opening hours at local temples
Threads: Both my white top and colourful pants are by the amazing Tigerlily Swimwear
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1 with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 lens
Remember: The early bird gets the worm (and beats the crowds)
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